Norovirus spiking again? Here are the symptoms to watch for as cases surge

Norovirus is a very contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea. Learn how it spreads and how you can help prevent getting it.

[ – 2024.02.25] There’s a new health alert to be aware of as cases of norovirus are spiking around the country, including here in New York.

The Centers for Disease Control say positive tests for norovirus in the Northeast have reached almost 14% in recent weeks. That’s the highest number in the United States.

The city’s Department of Health website does not have specific numbers on cases, but does track symptoms reported during emergency room visits. Tens of thousands of New Yorkers have visited the ER for vomiting and diarrhea in the past few months, according to data from the city’s Health Department.

Norovirus is a common stomach virus that is highly contagious, and can be spread through food and person to person contact. Sharing eating utensils, changing diapers, consuming contaminated food or drinks, or touching infected surfaces or objects can lead to infections, the Health Department says.

In addition to vomiting and diarrhea, common symptoms include nausea, stomach cramps, fever, chills, aches and tiredness.

Doctors say the best way to avoid the virus is to wash your hands often. While it is called gastroenteritis or the “stomach flu,” noroviruses are not related to the flu, a.k.a. influenza.

Mount Sinai says symptoms can start within one to two days after infection, but typically will last only one to three days.

Norovirus Outbreaks

Most norovirus outbreaks in the United States happen from November to April. However, you can get norovirus illness at any time during the year.

Each year in the United States, norovirus causes on average:

  • 900 deaths, mostly among adults aged 65 and older
  • 109,000 hospitalizations
  • 465,000 emergency department visits, mostly in young children
  • 2,270,000 outpatient clinic visits annually, mostly in young children
  • 19 to 21 million illnesses

How norovirus spreads

Norovirus is very contagious and spreads very easily and quickly in different ways.

You can get norovirus by:

  • Having direct contact with someone with norovirus, such as by caring for them, sharing food or eating utensils with them, or eating food handled by them.
  • Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus.
  • Touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus and then putting your unwashed fingers in your mouth.

You are most contagious:

  • When you have symptoms of norovirus illness, especially vomiting.
  • During the first few days after you feel better.

However, studies have shown that you can still spread norovirus for two weeks or more after you feel better.


Norovirus is the leading cause of vomiting and diarrhea from acute gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines) among people of all ages in the United States.

The most common symptoms of norovirus are:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain

Other symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Body aches

A person usually develops symptoms 12 to 48 hours after being exposed to norovirus. Most people with norovirus illness get better within 1 to 3 days, but they can still spread the virus for a few days after.

If you have norovirus illness, you can feel extremely ill, and vomit or have diarrhea many times a day. This can lead to dehydration, especially in young children, older adults, and people with other illnesses.

How to treat norovirus

There is no specific medicine to treat people with norovirus illness. Antibiotic drugs will not help treat norovirus infections because they fight bacteria, not viruses.

If you have norovirus illness, you should drink plenty of liquids to replace fluid lost from vomiting and diarrhea. This will help prevent dehydration.

Sports drinks and other drinks without caffeine or alcohol can help with mild dehydration. However, these drinks may not replace important nutrients and minerals. Oral rehydration fluids that you can get over the counter are most helpful for mild dehydration.

Symptoms of dehydration

Dehydration can lead to serious problems. Severe dehydration may require hospitalization for treatment with fluids given through your vein (intravenous or IV fluids).

  • Decrease in urination
  • Dry mouth and throat
  • Feeling dizzy when standing up

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