Many people with a bout of serious stomach troubles say they have a stomach flu. But it’s usually norovirus, the No. 1 cause of disease outbreaks from contaminated food in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
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Norovirus is a type of gastroenteritis, which is an inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, the digestion pathway that includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach and intestines, says emergency medicine specialist Seth Podolsky, MD.
Norovirus usually causes three general symptoms: vomiting, diarrhea, and then belly cramping, Dr. Podolsky says. Norovirus cannot be treated with antibiotics. If you catch norovirus, simply wait it out and rest, he says.
“Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, wash your hands frequently and avoid contact with others to keep the illness from spreading,” Dr. Podolsky says. “Norovirus is quite contagious. The key thing to know is to stay away from others a couple of days after the symptoms go away because it tends to still be in your body.”
Most people get norovirus from coming in contact with another person. The disease can be spread almost anywhere people are in close contact with one another.
Norovirus can live on surfaces and continue to infect those who touch them for hours, days or even weeks, Dr. Podolsky says. So it’s important to clean and disinfect surfaces in your home if you suspect a family member has norovirus, to keep other from getting sick.