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Center for Health & Wellness

GI Issues and Information

Norovirus

The Center for Health and Wellness (CHW) wants to remind all students, faculty, and staff to practice good hygiene measures to reduce the possibility of becoming infected with a NOROVIRUS as well as to prevent an outbreak within our Emerson community.

Noroviruses are easily spread through food, by person-to-person contact, or through contact with contaminated surfaces such as countertops and door knobs. The virus is spread through an infected person’s stool or vomit. This contamination can then be spread further without careful attention to hand washing and environmental cleaning. Illnesses related to norovirus infection have an incubation period (time from exposure to illness) of about 12 to 48 hours and the signs and symptoms can last several days.

Everyone can reduce their chances of coming in contact with noroviruses by following these simple tips:

  • Frequently wash your hands, especially after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before eating or preparing food.
  • Carefully wash fruits and vegetables, and steam oysters before eating them.
  • Thoroughly clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces immediately after an episode of illness by using a bleach-based household cleaner.
  • Immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may be contaminated with virus after an episode of illness (use hot water and soap).
  • Flush any vomit or stool down the toilet and make sure that the surrounding area is kept clean.
  • Persons who are infected with norovirus should not prepare food for others while they have symptoms and for 3 days after they recover from their illness.

Self-Care Guidelines

For most people, norovirus is a very unpleasant short-term illness, not requiring a visit to a healthcare provider, but it can be more serious for infants and children, elderly individuals, and people with compromised immune systems. Self-care measures for fluid and food replacement following a gastrointestinal virus are provided below. On campus students may request a “Meals to Go” menu from Dining Services to include a number of the items listed below:

Fluids:  Wait for one hour after vomiting to try clear liquids - they're the mainstay of self-care treatment for first 6 - 8 hours. Start with small amounts - a 1/2 cup (40z/ 20cc); wait 30 - 40 minutes and, if it stays down, take another small amount.

  • Ice Chips ½ c
  •  Popsicle/ Freeze Pop
  • Water
  • Gatorade
  • Broths/ herbal teas
  • Non-carbonated soda - let all the fizz subside

Food: If you are taking in fluids without a return to vomiting or worsening of diarrhea after 6 - 8 hours and you feel hungry you can start on some simple “white foods” such as saltines/oyster crackers.  If still doing okay advance your selections to what we refer as a “BRAT” diet: Bananas; Rice/pasta/potatoes; Applesauce, oatmeal/cream of wheat; Toast or plain bagel.

If vomiting returns or you experience an increase in frequency of diarrhea stop the solids and go back to liquids only for another 6 hours.

Follow the BRAT guidelines for 24 hours, and then start adding back your usual food items.   Red meats and oils/fatty food items should be last to be added back because these are harder for your body to digest.  Until you have returned to a solid food diet for a few days your bowel movement may not be “solid.”   Please contact the CHW (617-824-8666) with any concerns. Guidelines on when to seek medical care are outlined below.

Dehydration occurs when you lose more fluid than you take in - fever, vomiting, and diarrhea may make dehydration worse.

How to Prevent and Treat Dehydration

  • Drink plenty of water, fruit and vegetable juices, soups and broths, and beverages such as Gatorade® or a store brand.Take in about 1/2 cup of liquid every 1/2 to 1 hour you are awake. Avoid caffeine and alcohol - herbal teas are okay.
  • Drink small amounts of fluid often; dehydration can occur very quickly.  Don't wait until you feel thirsty.
  • Watch carefully for signs that dehydration is getting worse.  Call your healthcare provider or the CHW if there are any unusual symptoms that concern you.
  • Signs of Mild or Moderate Dehydration - if experiencing these increase your fluid consumption.
    • Feeling thirstier
    • Very dry mouth
    • Less urination or darker urine
    • Slight dizziness or lightheadedness
    • Headache

If students become ill after hours or on the weekend, on-campus students may contact the “Resident Assistant on-call” for access to the “After Hours” medical practice for further advice. The Emerson Police Department can transport you to the ER or facilitate ambulance transport (call 617-824-8888). If you live off campus and the above measures are not effective, contact your primary care clinician or seek further evaluation at your local ER.


Reporting Illness

 Early identification of a potential campus wide outbreak is important.  We are asking students who experience symptoms suggestive of a gastrointestinal virus to email the CHW at: healthservices@emerson.edu with subject line “GI.”  Please include your name, Emerson ID#, address, and date your symptoms started.  This is for reporting purposes only.  For advice or further evaluation call the CHW at 617-824-8666.

When To Seek Medical Attention

  • If your symptoms last more than 48 hours, despite following the self-care guidelines.
  • If you have severe abdominal pain especially in the lower right  side (appendix area)
  • If you are experiencing signs of Severe Dehydration (Medical Emergency)
    • Extreme thirst.
    • Very dry mouth or inside of nose. 
    • Check skin on forearm: if skin does not bounce back to normal after it is gently pinched/lifted and remains “tented’ this indicates severe dehydration.
    • Little or no urination.
    • Severe dizziness or feeling like you will faint.

Most symptoms will improve over 24 - 48 hours without medical attention. You should not return to work, school or athletic/fitness activities until you have been symptom free without a fever for 24 hours.  If you work as a food handler or as caregiver in health or daycare setting you must remain out of work for 72 hours.

For more information on norovirus view the MDPH fact sheet. Listen to a podcast about norovirus.