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revised March 18, 2016

Environmental Health

Food

Food Poisoning

Norovirus

Norovirus is a virus that spreads very easily, and is one of the most common causes of diarrhea and vomiting.

You could get norovirus from consuming contaminated food or drinks, contact with an infected person, and contact with contaminated surfaces. Outbreaks of norovirus can occur in places where people are in close contact with each other, including schools, hospitals, long-term care homes, restaurants, banquet halls, and cruise ships.

What are the common food sources?

  • Raw vegetables and fruit
  • Shellfish (e.g., oysters, mussels), if from contaminated waters
  • Prepared food (e.g., salads, sandwiches), if contaminated by infected food preparers

What are the symptoms and health effects?

You may develop these symptoms 15 to 72 hours after you are exposed to norovirus, and they could last one to two days:

  • Projectile vomiting
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps

Almost everybody recovers without any long-term health problems.

Children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems may experience more severe illness.

What should I do if I have it?

Drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest.

See a doctor if your symptoms last longer than three days, if you have bloody diarrhea or if you have a high fever.

Children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems may need to take an oral rehydration solution because they are at greater risk of dehydration. You can find this solution at a pharmacy without a prescription.

How can I protect myself?

  • Clean your hands often using soap and running water. Hand washing is especially important after using the washroom, after changing diapers and before eating or cooking.

  • Clean clothing and linens soiled by vomit or diarrhea. Rinse the item. Let the rinse water run into a toilet. Launder as usual.

    Textiles that cannot be laundered may be steam cleaned. Do a patch test first or check with the manufacturer if steam cleaning is safe for the item.

  • Clean kitchen food contact surfaces with soap and water, then disinfect using a solution of 1 tsp (5 ml) bleach in 4 cups (1 litre) of water. Allow the disinfectant solution to remain wet on the surface for about 1 minute, then dry.

  • Clean non-food contact surfaces with soap and water, then disinfect using a solution of 2 tsp (10 ml) bleach in 2 cups (500 ml) of water. Allow the disinfectant solution to remain wet on the surface for about 10 minutes, then dry.

    Refer to this chart for complete instructions on making a disinfecting solution using household bleach.

  • Clean and disinfect surfaces contaminated with diarrhea or vomit by following these steps.

  • Clean vegetables and fruits by rising with clean running water before eating.

  • Cook shellfish thoroughly before eating.

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Revised: March 18, 2016

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