BU Today

Health & Wellness

Norovirus Spreading with a Vengeance

Washing your hands is the best prevention against the norovirus.

David McBride, director of Student Health Services, cautions students to wash their hands often.

It strikes quickly and with a vengeance, sidelining its victims with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and severe aches. It thrives in close quarters, such as cruise ships, nursing homes, day care centers, and college dorms. It’s the norovirus, and it’s coming to a stomach near you.

Recent outbreaks of the highly contagious bug, which causes the stomach flu, have been reported across the country. Boston’s emergency rooms have seen many cases, and Simmons College has been hard-hit.

“It pops up a lot in close quarters because it’s easy to spread, which is why a college campus is at risk,” says David McBride, director of Student Health Services. “In fact, BU had an outbreak of the virus just last year.”

Symptoms, which appear 24 to 48 hours after a person is infected with the virus, include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramping, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some people may also experience low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and a general sense of tiredness. Those infected with norovirus are contagious from the moment they begin feeling ill to at least three days after recovery. In some cases, people may be contagious for as long as two weeks.

The misery-bearing norovirus is mostly spread by people who are not practicing proper hygiene, says McBride, such as washing their hands after going to the bathroom and before eating. “Wash your hands after going to the bathroom and before and after eating,” he says. “Also, wash fresh fruits and veggies before eating.” 

If norovirus hits you, “be prepared to ride it out and drink lots of fluids,” McBride says. “If a roommate has the bug, make sure you clean the bathroom, especially toilet handles, spigots, and handles on sinks, with bleach-based cleaners.” And remember — if you have uncontrollable nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, be sure to visit your doctor.

Meghan Noé can be reached at mdorney@bu.edu.