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Norovirus in food


Last updated: 23 December 2020

What is it?

  • Norovirus is a group of viruses that can be found in the gut of people
  • Norovirus can get into water and food from the faeces (poo) or vomit of infected people, for example from unwashed hands
  • Norovirus can stay infectious in the environment for a long time and might not be destroyed by common disinfectants
  • Foods at higher risk of contamination include shellfish (e.g. oysters) and food that is ready to eat (won’t be further cooked)

What's the risk?

  • Norovirus can cause gastro illness and is highly contagious
  • Anyone can get gastro from norovirus even if they have had it before
  • Very young children, the elderly and people with weak immune systems (e.g. cancer patients) can get seriously ill from dehydration

Reduce your risk

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and dry them before preparing and eating food, especially after going to the toilet or changing nappies
  • Wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly under running water
  • Avoid eating raw shellfish
  • If you are sick with norovirus you should not prepare food for others until 48 hours after vomiting and diarrhoea have stopped
  • Keep your kitchen and equipment clean

Symptoms of norovirus

  • Symptoms usually start 24 to 48 hours after eating contaminated food or touching contaminated cutlery, glassware or other surfaces
  • Common symptoms are frequent vomiting and watery diarrhoea, nausea, muscle aches, headaches and low fever
  • Most people are sick for one to three days.


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