Definition of Norovirus

Norovirus: A group of viruses that are a common cause of food poisoning and acute gastroenteritis ("stomach flu") that can strike quickly with force and make a person feel very sick but which typically resolves within 2-3 days. The characteristic symptoms are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramping. The diarrhea is not bloody. Fever, if present, is low-grade. Dehydration is the main complication, especially in infants and the elderly, and may need medical attention.

The clinical criteria for the diagnosis of norovirus infection include:

  1. an incubation period of 12-36 hours;
  2. an illness characterized by acute onset of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and, in some cases, fever and malaise;
  3. an illness of 12-60 hours duration.

The virus is spread primarily from one infected person to another (by the fecal-oral route). Infected kitchen workers can contaminate a salad or sandwich as they prepare it, if they have the virus on their hands. Infected fishermen have contaminated oysters as they harvested them. Norovirus infection has become a veritable plague on cruise ships.

Norovirus was coined to refer to the Norwalk-like virus by a simpler and more memorable term. It is now the official name. Also called the calicivirus because of its characteristic "Star of David" shape with cup-shaped (chalice) indentations.


Last Editorial Review: 6/14/2012

Search MedTerms:


Back to MedTerms online medical dictionary A-Z List
Pill Identifier Tool

Need help identifying pills and medications?
Use the pill finder tool on RxList.


STAY INFORMED

Get the Latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!