How long is norovirus infection contagious?


In the winter months in particular, an extremely unpleasant and virus-triggered disease of the gastrointestinal tract spreads.

An infection with the norovirus manifests itself in cramp-like stomach pain, gushing vomiting and watery diarrhea.

The symptoms often only last a short time, but their severity is threatening and can be dangerous for small children and the elderly. There is no therapy against the virus, only the symptoms of the infection are treated. It is therefore all the more important to avoid contracting the virus.

Read more on the subject below: How is a norovirus infection transmitted?

How is the transmission route?

Noroviruses are transmitted through close contact with the sick. The virus is excreted in stool or vomit, so contact with these body fluids is one of the main sources of infection.

If hand hygiene is inadequate, the infected person can spread the virus in the household even after using the toilet.
This type of infection is called smear infection. When vomiting, however, the finest particles containing the virus also get into the air.

Infection is also possible via inhalation of these droplets (so-called droplet infection).

Read more on the subject under: How is the transmission path

How long is a norovirus infection contagious?

Norovirus infection is contagious as long as symptoms persist. The duration of the acute illness is usually no more than two days, but it can also be over after 12 hours. As a rule of thumb, you should apply increased hygiene measures for two more days, as viruses can still be excreted in the stool during this time.

In rare cases, the elimination can continue for up to two weeks. However, two days after the end of the illness is considered to be the time from which there is no longer any risk of infection. Before that, people who have professional contact with people (hospital staff, geriatric nurses, restaurant employees, teachers, educators, etc.), as well as school and kindergarten children should stay at home to protect against infection.

You may also be interested in this topic: Duration of norovirus disease

How can I tell if I am still contagious?

As long as the infection with norovirus is still acute, you can also assume that you are contagious. Nausea and watery stools are the best indicators of a still existing risk of infection.

As a rule, one should no longer be contagious two days after the last symptoms have disappeared. However, there is no guarantee that you will no longer be contagious.

Read more on the subject below: Gastrointestinal virus

Is there a test I can use to test my risk of infection?

There are test procedures in which a stool sample can be examined for the presence or traces of noroviruses.
However, this test is only used for people who need to be diagnosed in order to protect other people, for example in hospitals or nursing homes.

However, this test is rarely made available to individual individuals because the disease is self-limiting and a definitive diagnosis would not change the therapy.

The constellation of symptoms with violent vomiting and very watery diarrhea over a relatively short period of time is so characteristic of an infection with the norovirus that a test is often not necessary at all

How can I prevent infection?

If a person is sick with the norovirus in the immediate vicinity, one can try to limit the spread of the infection. Hand hygiene is the most important measure to protect against infection.

Regular hand washing reduces the number of viruses that you may have picked up using a shared bathroom. It is advisable to wash your hands thoroughly before eating, when you bring your hands to your mouth.

Regular use of a hand disinfectant is also useful. When buying, however, attention should be paid to effectiveness against noroviruses. If you have a second toilet in the household, it is recommended that the sick person use their own toilet during the period of illness.
This can be disinfected after the infection is over.

It is also useful to have your own towels for the sick person and should then be washed at 60-90 ° C to avoid contagion to others. In the case of shared rooms, it is worth ventilating after using the toilet and cleaning surfaces, the toilet seat and door handles regularly with disinfectant.

Especially when your own children are sick, it is difficult to ensure adequate hygiene in order not to become infected. Particular care and attention is required here.

If I am sick myself, how can I prevent others from being infected?

The most effective way to protect others from getting norovirus infection is hand hygiene. Washing and, if necessary, disinfecting hands after every bathroom visit is mandatory. This at least avoids the transmission of the virus via contamination of touched surfaces.

Noroviruses are very infectious and survive on surfaces for a long time. Regular disinfection of the toilet and bathroom helps to minimize the risk of infection, even during the next two days after the symptoms have ceased.

With a norovirus infection, you should definitely stay at home so as not to expose your colleagues to unnecessary risk of infection. If possible, you should avoid close proximity to other people during the acute phase of the illness.

Although the feeling of illness with a norovirus infection is great, a visit to the doctor or hospital should only be considered in an emergency. Since the disease passes quite quickly and there are no useful medications, such a visit only brings with it an increased risk of spreading the virus.

However, if the vomiting diarrhea is accompanied by a high fever or a very serious feeling of illness, or if it lasts longer than two days, a doctor should be consulted as it could possibly be a different pathogen.

Read more on the subject below: Vomiting and diarrhea