Prevent the Spread of Norovirus

Author: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   |   Posted on: January 04, 2019

Prevent the Spread of Norovirus

Millions of people get sick from norovirus each year. It causes sudden vomiting and diarrhea, and spreads quickly and easily to other people. If you think you have norovirus, stay hydrated and take steps to keep it from spreading.

Norovirus is very contagious. When you are sick with norovirus, you can shed billions of virus particles in your vomit and poop. It only takes a few of these particles to make someone sick.

You are most contagious

  • when you have symptoms of norovirus illness, especially vomiting
  • during the first few days after you recover from norovirus illness.

However, you may still be able to spread norovirus for two weeks or more after you feel better.

You Can Spread Norovirus in Many Ways

If you are sick with norovirus, you can spread it to other people by having close contact, such as by caring for, preparing food, or sharing food or eating utensils with them. You can also spread norovirus to others by contaminating surfaces.

Take Steps to Keep Norovirus from Spreading

  • Wash your hands. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, especially after using the toilet and changing diapers, and always before eating or preparing food.
  • Handle and prepare food safely.
    Carefully wash fruits and vegetables, and cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating.

If you are sick with norovirus, do not prepare food for others while you have symptoms and for at least 2 days after symptoms go away.

  • Clean and disinfect surfaces.
    After you vomit or have diarrhea, immediately clean up the entire area using a bleach-based household cleaner as directed on the product label. If no such cleaning product is available, you can use a solution made with 5 tablespoons to 1.5 cups of household bleach per 1 gallon of water.
  • Wash laundry thoroughly.
    Immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may have vomit or poop on it. Handle items carefully—try not to agitate them. If available, wear disposable gloves to handle soiled clothing or linens, and wash your hands after. Wash soiled items with detergent and hot water at the maximum available cycle length then machine dry them at the highest heat setting.



Norovirus illness is often called stomach flu or food poisoning. Norovirus is a germ that can cause foodborne illness (food poisoning). It is the most common germ that causes foodborne illness in the United States.


Norovirus and flu may share some symptoms, but the flu is a respiratory illness caused by influenza virus, not norovirus.

Norovirus Symptoms

Most people who get sick from norovirus will have these symptoms:

  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • nausea
  • stomach pain

Some people may also have a fever, headache, or body aches.

Norovirus can be more serious for young children, the elderly, and people with other health conditions. It can lead to severe dehydration, hospitalization and even death. To learn how to stay hydrated see norovirus treatment.

Most people sick with norovirus get better in 1 to 3 days.

Norovirus is Common

19 to 21 million people get sick with norovirus each year in the United States. A person will get norovirus about 5 times during their lifetime. People of all ages can get norovirus.

You can get norovirus any time of the year, it is most common from November to April when outbreaks occur. Learn more about U.S. Trends and Outbreaks.

More Information


Content source:  National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases, Division of Viral Diseases