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Norovirus: Everything You Need To Know About The Virus Now Striking China

Learn about the symptoms and how you can avoid the spread of this disease that causes severe stomach upset.

This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.

Although Chinese authorities have reported having COVID-19 under control, another disease keeps the country on alert. It is the norovirus , an easily contagious infection that is affecting the population of the Asian country. Learn about the signs and symptoms of this virus that causes severe stomach upset and how to avoid transmission.

The norovirus or Norwalk-type virus is nothing new, the first outbreak was detected in Ohio in 1968. It is characterized by being gastroenteritis , that is, an inflammation of the stomach and intestines.

It causes symptoms such as severe diarrhea and vomiting , severe abdominal pain, nausea, fever, headache, dizziness, and muscle pain.

The most serious cases are in babies, older adults, and people with other health problems. In these cases, the symptoms usually last longer and are more severe.

How to avoid the spread of norovirus?

In addition to being very annoying and debilitating, norovirus is highly contagious. It is transmitted by consuming infected products, touching surfaces contaminated by the virus or being in contact with carriers, even more so in closed and crowded places, such as long-term care institutions, day care centers, schools, hotels and cruise ships.

The measures to prevent the transmission of norovirus are practically the same as those to avoid the coronavirus. Frequent hand washing is recommended, as well as cleaning and disinfecting surfaces , especially if a sick person has been in contact with those spaces. It is also important to wash food well before eating it and to cook products such as seafood very well.

Is there a treatment for norovirus?

Although it has been around for decades, there are still no specific drugs to counteract norovirus.

Rest and drinking plenty of fluids are recommended to combat dehydration caused by diarrhea and vomiting. Only pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen are prescribed to relieve pain, in addition to antidiarrheals. Alcohol and caffeinated beverages should be avoided as they can make symptoms worse.

The situation in China is worrying. An outbreak of norovirus was reported last week, affecting 50 children at a school in Zingong, Sichuan province. More cases have also been reported in the rest of the country, so they remain vigilant to contain further spread.

According to data from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , about one in five cases of acute gastroenteritis are caused by norovirus.

"Noroviruses cause 685 million cases of acute gastroenteritis, which makes them the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the world," states the CDC website . "Approximately 200 million cases are in children under the age of 5 and it is estimated that they kill about 50,000 children each year, mainly in developing countries ."

The agency explains that norovirus outbreaks are more common in winter. About half of all cases occur between December and February in the Northern Hemisphere, and between June and August in the Southern Hemisphere.