Someone says, “I had the flu last week, and was in the bathroom constantly.” Maybe it was actually norovirus.

Flu (influenza) symptoms are usually fever, cough, runny or stuffy nose, headache, muscle aches and fatigue. Some people, usually children, have vomiting and diarrhea. However the more likely culprit for nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps and the accompanying dehydration is noroviruses, a group of viral infections.

Noroviruses are very contagious, spread by contact with a contaminated surface or direct contact with vomit or feces of a sick person you’re caring for. Noroviruses spread quickly within a family or other closed community such as a daycare center. The virus can even spread through the air when someone vomits, so persons with a suppressed immune system may want to wear a mask around anyone with norovirus symptoms.

Careful handwashing (soap and running water) can decrease the spread of norovirus. We can remain contagious from the minute we get ill until three days after recovery.

Rehydration is the main treatment for norovirus. Antibiotics don’t work. And therefore hand sanitizers don’t work against a norovirus either; rubbing hands under running water is the only way to get rid of the norovirus germs.