Norwalk Virus Norwalk Virus formally known as a Norwalk Agent is an RNA Virus. RNA viruses include SARS, Influenza and Hepatitis C. Sometimes an RNA virus will be called a RIBOVIRUS. The viruses responsible for approximately 90% of epidemic nonbacterial outbreaks of gastroenteritis around the world and some experts contend the Norwalk type viruses are responsible for 50% of all food borne outbreaks of gastroenteritis in the US.
The NOROVIRUSES can make people of all ages sick and is generally transmitted by fecally contaminated food or water by person to person or be transmitted by contaminated surfaces. Some people have an inherited pre-disposition to infection of the Norovirus or Noro-like viruses and interestingly enough, individuals with the blood type O are more often infected while blood types B and AB can confer partial protection against the infection. Outbreaks of Norovirus infections can include long-term care facilities, overnight camps, hospitals prisons dormitories, cruise ships and wedding receptions where the infection can spread very rapidly either by person to person transmission or through contaminated food. Usually a Norovirus like outbreak can be traced to food that was handled by an infected person. Noro-type viruses can be inactivated through disinfectants and sufficient heating of food. Often times people infected with the Norovirus believe they have the stomach flu. When a person contracts a Norovirus it multiplies in the small intestine for approximately 24 to 48 hours. It is not unusual for people to be treated in the emergency room for such a condition.
Deaths in the US are estimated to be about 300 per year and these mostly occur in elderly and the very young with those with weakened immune systems. It is important not to get dehydrated. Shell fish and Salad are often implicated in a norovirus outbreak and hand washing can help reduce the spread of a norovirus pathogens as well as sanitizing surfaces. Alcohol rubs are not very effective at dealing with the noroviruses. Other viruses that have similar impact on people are the desert shield virus and the south Hampton virus. Bristol virus, Lordsdale virus, Toronto virus, Mexico virus, Hawaii virus and Snow Mountain virus.