Norovirus is a stomach bug most common during winter time and is aptly named the ‘winter vomiting bug.’ It causes the deaths of 200,000 a year but this risk is limited to those that are immunosuppressed or the very young/old as they have trouble remaining hydrated.

The symptoms of norovirus appear after two days after infection and last for about the same amount of time. I would assume, in the same way that flu is a virus more common as we get closer to Christmas, norovirus is more stable in cold air and low humidity which allow the virus to remain in the air for longer,  survive for longer, increasing the chance of a person inhaling the virus.

The symptoms include vomiting, suddenly feeling sick and watery diarrhoea- others may have a fever or stomach cramps and aches also. The vomiting is not the body’s response in order to get rid of the virus in this case, as the viral particles don’t multiply in the stomach but in the small intestine; it’s kind of like a gag reflex of the body; a secondary response. The only advice there is if infected is to stay at home as there is no cure for norovirus and so the most important thing would be to avoid infecting others; the NHS website even states that there is no need to get medical advice unless the symptoms are extreme, for example, a child being severely dehydrated or vomiting three or more times in 24 hours or the symptoms not passing in the few days’ time frame which could suggest a different underlying issue. Keeping hydrated, getting plenty of rest, and taking paracetamol to relive the headaches and muscle pain is the advice suggested.

Norovirus can be spread by having close contact with somebody who is infected with it as you could inhale the virus they exhale. Touching contaminated surfaces or eating contaminated food could cause infection since the virus can survive outside of the host for an unknown amount of time (some sources state several days) and can survive on hands if they have not been washed well.

You can’t develop a resistance towards norovirus as a whole as the virus is always adapting and so there are many different strains; from having the illness you will only become immune to the particular strain that you had. Norovirus causes illness by moving through the stomach and into the small intestine where the particles then multiply which is why the symptoms are not automatic, instead taking 12-48 hours to take effect. Our cells then become virus producing factories as the virus releases its genome which shuts down the cells normal function. Because of this our cells go through lysis or explode which releases even more of the virus particles. The immune system then steps in when it recognises that cells are dying and produce antibodies that then travel to the small intestine and deactivate the virus.

This makes it all the more important to stop the virus from spreading by staying in your home if you have it until the symptoms have passed, washing hands regularly and thoroughly, disinfecting surfaces and areas where there has been vomit and diarrhoea and washing clothing. The only way to avoid norovirus is to only eat oysters from a reliable energy source.

What do you think causes viruses and bacteria to spread during the winter? Thanks for reading this blog post providing you with another thing to worry about this Christmas! Comment and like.

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