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What Is Norovirus?

If you follow the news, you may have heard about the recent outbreak of norovirus at Chipotle restaurants. You may have wondered, What is norovirus? And What can I do to avoid getting sick?

Facts about Norovirus

  • Norovirus is a virus that is spread among infected people and through contaminated food, water, and surfaces.1, 2
  • Norovirus is very contagious and can infect many people quickly.2
  • The majority of foodborne illness in the United States is caused by norovirus.1
  • Norovirus is sometimes referred to as “food poisoning,” “stomach bug,” or “stomach flu,” though it is not related to the influenza virus.2
  • Common symptoms of norovirus infection include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and abdominal cramps.1, 2 These symptoms usually go away within forty-eight hours, though people are still contagious even after their symptoms have passed.1

Tips for Avoiding Infection

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water before eating or handling food and after going to the bathroom or coming in contact with garbage, vomit, or human waste.1, 2
  • Wash and cook all food properly. Shellfish are notorious for carrying norovirus, and must be heated to over 140⁰F to kill the virus.1, 3
  • Disinfect all items and surfaces an infected person has come in contact with.1, 2
  • If you are infected, do not prepare or touch food meant for others.1, 2

For more information on norovirus, see the CDC website.


  1. Rachael Silverberg, Melissa K. Jones, Renée Goodrich Schneider, Aswathy Sreedharan and Keith R. Schneider, Preventing Foodborne Illness: Norovirus, FSHN0518, Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 2015, http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fs129
  2. “Norovirus,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015, http://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/
  3. “Norovirus is Shellfish,” Washington State Department of Health, n.d., http://www.doh.wa.gov/CommunityandEnvironment/Shellfish/BiotoxinsIllnessPrevention/Norovirus

Photo credits: Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS