How Long Is Incubation Period of Norovirus?

Norovirus, also known as the winter vomiting bug, is a highly contagious virus that infects people of any age. The virus attacks the gastrointestinal tract in humans, causing nausea and vomiting among other symptoms. The virus mainly spreads through drinking contaminated water, eating contaminated food or coming into contact with feces of an infected person. Incubation period of norovirus is usually short, and symptoms begin to manifest afterward. In this discussion, we explore norovirus and practical ways to deal with its effects.

How Long Is Norovirus Incubation Period?

The incubation period is normally short, ranging between 12 and 48 hours. Thereafter, symptoms kick in. It is common for patients with norovirus to feel thirsty because of the vomiting and diarrhea that accompany the ailment, leading to loss of fluids. Other symptoms include cramping, fever, muscle pain, malaise, and nausea.

Symptoms of norovirus bug are more pronounced in babies, children, pregnant women and the elderly. And although babies may not diarrhea as much as adults, they may appear lethargic. Infants, children, pregnant women and the elderly may need special or extra attention in case of an infection because the symptoms can be more severe and may lead to more serious complications.

In most cases, the symptoms clear out in two to three days except for special cases and in children. Unlike many bacterial infections, the norovirus does not cause blood or pus in the stool. However, the norovirus may catalyze severe inflammation in the colon of newborn babies and children. It is not clear how this happens.

What Is the Contagious Period of Norovirus?

Patients become infectious immediately the norovirus incubation period is over, and they begin to exhibit symptoms and may continue being contagious for up to three days after recovering. Some people remain contagious for up to fourteen days after recovery.

How to Treat Norovirus Infection

Since there is no cure for norovirus, the best thing is to take as much rest as possible. You may therefore need to stay away from work and instead remain at home as you recuperate. If it affects your child, it is prudent to keep her off school to recuperate and also to avoid spreading the infection. Norovirus spreads most in enclosed and crowded areas such as schools, nursing homes, and daycare centers.


You can do the following to ease the symptoms for both you and your child as the infection runs its cause:

  • Ensure that you drink or give your child plenty of fluids to maintain hydration and combat the effects of vomiting and diarrhea. You may need to take more fluid than usually recommended. Freshly squeezed fruit juice and soup can work great as well, although you may need to avoid giving them to your child to prevent worsening diarrhea.
  • Eat plain, non-greasy foods such as rice and pasta to avoid vomiting.
  • You may need to take specific drinks to restore lost electrolytes.
  • You can also get drugs from your local pharmacy that would help in relieving diarrhea and vomiting.
  • You may use OTC painkillers for any muscle aches or cramps.
  • Maintain high standards of hygiene to avoid passing the virus to someone else by washing your hands thoroughly after every toilet visit. Also avoid hanging out in public places to reduce the risk of spreading.

Seeking Medical Attention

In most cases, after the norovirus incubation period, there is no need for medication or medical care. However, the symptoms can sometimes get out of hand, and the infection becomes severe. Get immediate medical attention in case of the following:

  • You notice streaks of blood in your stool.
  • The symptoms have not receded after a few days.
  • Your baby is not responsive, is lethargic, pale and feverish.
  • You or the child vomits or diarrheas for more than six times within a 24-hour window.
  • Children and seniors have a greater risk of getting dehydrated. Therefore, be on the lookout for dizziness or passing little or no urine.

How to Prevent Norovirus Infection

1.   Maintain Proper Hygiene

  • Routinely wash your hands with soap and water, scrubbing them thoroughly under running water and paying attention to the areas under fingernails. Do this every time after using the toilet, after changing diapers, before eating and before cooking.
  • Continue practicing high hygiene standards for up to two weeks after recovery. This is because the virus may still be present in your stool and saliva.
  • Sanitizers which are alcohol-based can come in handy, but remember that they should not substitute the traditional method of washing hands.

2.   Thoroughly Clean Your Food Before Cooking

  • Don’t prepare food for others if you are infected. This is especially important for people whose work is food preparation in hotels, hospitals, and schools. It is best to be moved to another department temporarily where there is less risk of spreading the virus until you recover fully.
  • Clean fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating.
  • Since the norovirus bug is relatively resistant to heat (it can resist up to 140°F), it is best to cook seafood at a temperature slightly above that to avoid the risk of infection.
  • Infected babies and children should be kept away from kitchen areas and places where food is prepared.
  • If you suspect that food has been contaminated, it is better to throw it away rather than run the risk of infection.

3.   Keep All Surfaces Clean and Disinfected

  • Immediately clean and disinfect after throwing up or diarrhea. Use chlorine bleach with a concentration of 5.25%. Household bleach will also do.
  • Keep your laundry clean and disinfected at all times, especially after the norovirus incubation period. In case you vomit or pass stool on your clothing items, do the following:
  1. Wear gloves when handling the clothes. Remove them and keep them in a separate place.
  2. Machine-wash in full cycle and dry them.
  3. Be careful when handling the clothes to avoid spreading the virus to surfaces where other people may come into contact with them.
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