Norovirus Watch - April 1, 2014
As you may know, in the past month numerous people in the greater Washington, D.C., area have become ill with norovirus (a type of gastroenteritis, commonly known as a stomach virus). Over the past week, a number of American University students became sick with similar symptoms of nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.
As a precautionary measure to decrease the risk of catching gastroenteritis as well to help limit the spread of this illness, please take a few minutes to read the following information:
Norovirus is a highly contagious viral infection transmitted through person to person contact or food-water ingestion. It has a short incubation period of 12 to 48 hours.
Symptoms of norovirus include: fever, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Usually, these symptoms are associated with muscle aches and abdominal pain. The infection typically lasts two to three days.
For most healthy individuals, drinking plenty of non-alcoholic fluids (small sips at a time) and resting at home is sufficient to recover from a norovirus infection, and there is no need for hospital treatment. Anyone who is concerned about their medical condition should talk to their medical provider for advice. Students with severe symptoms may be evaluated at the Student Health Center during regular business hours or may go to the nearest emergency room in the evening or on weekends. Faculty and staff should contact their medical provider for advice and treatment.
AU staff, including housekeeping and food services, is diligent (as always) in making sure our environment is clean and safe. Housekeeping has begun using a cleaning agent which disinfects surfaces from norovirus.
The spread of norovirus can be prevented by following some simple guidelines:
- Frequently wash your hands, especially after using the bathroom and before eating or preparing food.
- Anyone ill with diarrhea or vomiting should not prepare food for other people. In particular, people with diarrhea should not work in restaurants, day care centers, or medical settings unless they are cleared to do so by their doctor or the local health department.
- Thoroughly clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces immediately after an episode of diarrhea or vomiting by using a bleach-based household cleaner.
- Immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may be contaminated with the virus after an episode of diarrhea or vomiting (use hot water and soap).
- Flush or discard any vomit and/or stool in the toilet and make sure that the surrounding area is kept clean.
Because norovirus is very contagious, sudden outbreaks can result when people bring the infection into facilities such as hospitals, schools and/or residence halls. No one who has suffered from vomiting and diarrhea should visit or work in crowded places until they have been completely symptom free for at least 48 hours.
For more information about norovirus and ways to protect yourself, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site at