Skip Navigation LinksNorovirus

Norovirus

What You Need to Know

Norovirus is a very contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea. Anyone can get sick with norovirus (even if they’ve had it before). Norovirus illness is sometimes called “food poisoning” or the “stomach flu,” but it is not related to influenza (flu) viruses, which mainly cause respiratory infection. 

A person can get norovirus by: ​​ 

  • Having direct contact with someone who is sick with norovirus  

  • Eating or drinking something that is contaminated with norovirus 

  • Touching a surface that is contaminated with norovirus and then putting their unwashed hands in their mouth 

Norovirus spreads very easily from person-to-person and can survive for weeks on surfaces and objects. It can spread quickly in closed and crowded spaces, such as hospitals, schools, camps, and cruise ships. Norovirus can also contaminate food, especially if the food is washed or grown in contaminated water, or if it is prepared by someone who is infected with norovirus.

Norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the United States, causing an estimated 19 to 21 million cases every year.​ Outbreaks of norovirus are common. An outbreak can happen at any time during the year, but they are most common from November to April.

To prevent the spread of norovirus:

  • Practice good handwashing techniques using soap and water. Hand sanitizers are not usually effective against norovirus.  

  • Carefully wash fruits and vegetables, and cook shellfish thoroughly.

  • If you’re sick, STAY HOME! Isolate yourself, and do not participate in group activities for at least 2 days after you feel better. 

  • Do NOT prepare food or care for others when you are sick with norovirus or have diarrhea.

  • Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces or objects with a bleach solution as soon as possible to kill norovirus.​​

​Learn more about norovirus:

Page Last Updated :