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Norovirus: An infection that hit Kerala recently

By Tania Bagwan,

Yet another infectious virus has emerged in Kerala, the norovirus. Here’s what you need to know.

Norovirus is said to be the most acute cause of various gastrointestinal illnesses.

With the steady resurgence of coronavirus cases in the southern state of Kerala, yet another infectious virus has emerged which is called the norovirus. At least 13 students studying at a veterinary college in the Wayanad district have recently been diagnosed with this highly contagious animal-borne disease, and 15 more have been exhibiting symptoms for the same. Veena George, the health minister of Kerala, alerted people to remain vigilant and comply with the guidelines that were issue in order to control and limit the spread of norovirus. Read on to learn more about the norovirus. 

Norovirus: what exactly is it? 
Norovirus is said to be the most acute cause of various gastrointestinal illnesses. Some examples include diarrhoea, vomiting and inflammation of the lining of the stomach and the intestines. It is a severely contagious disease which spreads through contaminated food and water. This virus is contractible through close contact with affected individuals and also by touching contaminated surfaces. This disease can strike year-round, however, it primarily surfaces during the winter. Consequently, it is also referred to as the ‘winter vomiting bug.’ The first outbreak of this disease was witnessed in Norwalk, a town in the United States in the state of Ohio and hence, it used to be called the Norwalk Virus.  

What are its symptoms? 
Some of the most common symptoms of this disease are nausea, vomiting, severe diarrhoea, high body temperature, fatigue, abdominal and muscle ache, chills and fatigue. These symptoms, especially vomiting and diarrhoea can cause extreme dehydration due to the depletion of fluids. 

Who can get affected and for how long? `
All age-groups can be affected by this virus. Healthy individuals are usually not susceptible to severe cases of the norovirus. However, young children, old people and those with existing comorbidities are most vulnerable to this virus. Usually, its symptoms develop over a period of 12-48 hours and start disappearing within 3 days provided adequate treatment is given. This virus can last in the body for up to 8 weeks if ignored and left untreated.  

Prevention of norovirus 
The most effective way to prevent the spread of this virus is simply by ensuring good hygiene. It is advised to wash hands with soap regularly, especially after using the washroom and before consuming any food. Individuals who interact with animals need to be extra vigilant about washing their hands. It is also suggested to wash hands with soap and water specifically, as sanitisers (or any alcohol-based products) are not effective in killing this virus. Disinfecting surfaces with chlorine and bleach-based cleaners ensures decontamination around the house. Those experiencing symptoms should avoid leaving the house, and must also not cook meals.