What is Norwalk Virus?
Norwalk virus is a virus strain that causes gastroenteritis or ‘stomach flu’. It is estimated that Norwalk virus is responsible for about 90% of all gastroenteritis outbreak in the world as well as half of all food-borne outbreaks in the US. Norwalk virus, whose name is derived from Norwalk, Ohio where an outbreak occurred in Bronson Elementary School in 1968 took place, is also known by its more common name, norovirus.
Norovirus can be transmitted in a number of ways: person to person contact, fecal or vomit contamination, hand to mouth contact and through the air, such as when a person sneezes and diffuses virus onto the air. Norovirus is highly contagious and symptoms include nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting and in some cases, fever. While Norwalk virus causes much discomfort, the condition is generally not life threatening and symptoms usually disappear within a few days. The important thing to remember when infected is to drink lots of fluid to avoid dehydration, and to observe proper sanitation to avoid infecting healthy individuals.
Since Norwalk virus is highly contagious, it is usually responsible for outbreaks in crowds such as those participating in group activities. Examples of these are schools, cruise ships, camps, barracks, etc.