What is norovirus?
Norovirus is a highly contagious virus that usually causes vomiting and diarrhea. Norovirus infections are most common during the winter months but may occur at any time throughout the year.   
 How is norovirus spread?
Norovirus can easily spread from person to person through contact with the infected feces (stool) and vomit of a person sick with the virus. This may happen from coming in contact directly with an ill person, for example by shaking their unwashed hands. It may also be spread indirectly by touching surfaces contaminated with the virus and then eating or putting unclean hands in or near your mouth. A person may also become ill with norovirus after eating food that has been contaminated by the virus, for example by eating food prepared by an ill food handler who has not washed their hands. 

A person ill with norovirus is usually contagious from the moment they begin feeling ill and for the first few days after the diarrhea and vomiting resolve or goes away. People usually become sick within 12 to 48 hours after coming in contact with norovirus. 

What are the symptoms of norovirus?
Common symptoms of norovirus include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and abdominal pain. An infected person may also have a fever, headache, fatigue, body aches, chills and may become dehydrated. 
What is the treatment for norovirus?
There is no specific treatment for norovirus. Most people recover without complications after a few hours to a few days. Ensure to drink fluids to stay hydrated from extra fluid lost in diarrhea and vomit. 
How can I protect myself against norovirus?
Clean your hands often. Because norovirus is very contagious and can be spread easily from person to person, hand washing is an important step to prevent spreading the virus. Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 15 seconds after using the washroom, changing diapers, before and after preparing, serving or eating food. If soap and water are not available, alcohol based hand sanitizers may be used and should be rubbed on hands until dry, for at least 15 seconds.  

Do not prepare food for others if you have vomiting or diarrhea and for at least 2 days after your symptoms have resolved to avoid contaminating food. If you are sick with diarrhea and vomiting, you should stay away from others and stay home from work until at least 48 hours without any symptoms of norovirus. This is especially important if you work as a food handler, in healthcare or work or attend a child care center.

Eating certain foods, such as raw or undercooked oysters or shellfish may put you more at risk to become sick with norovirus and should be avoided. It is also important to ensure fruits and vegetables are washed carefully before preparing and eating and that surfaces in the environment that are touched frequently (i.e. door knobs, railings, light switches) are cleaned and disinfected often to kill norovirus on these surfaces. 

What is Ottawa Public Health’s Role?
Norovirus infections are typically not reportable to public health. However, outbreaks of enteric illness that may be caused by norovirus that occur in institutions (such as hospitals, long term care homes or retirement homes), child care centres, schools or other community settings are reportable. Public health plays a role in the follow up of such outbreaks to investigate cause, provide appropriate follow up to those who are affected and/or ill and ensure control measures are in place to prevent the spread of infection. 

Contact Us