Norovirus 2024: How NJ schools curb stomach bug outbreaks

How can parents and schools prevent their children from contracting norovirus, also known as the stomach bug?

Cases are spiking in the Northeast, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevent reporting that 14% of all norovirus tests in the regions were positive.

Luckily, for parents in New Jersey, the state has a plan to prevent outbreaks of the highly contagious virus.


Is the stomach bug going around? CDC reports norovirus spike in Northeast

Cases of the highly contagious norovirus, also known as the stomach bug, are rising across the Northeast, according to the CDC. How does norovirus spread? And how do you get norovirus?

While the NJ DOH acknowledges that schools and daycares can never fully prevent outbreaks of illnesses, quick actions can help reduce the number of students who become sick. Here's what the agency says to look for:

  • Two or more students in a classroom or group of students with onset of vomiting and or diarrhea on the same day.
  • A doubling in the number of students absent due to a vomiting and/or diarrhea over that of normal for a particular time of year is indicative of an outbreak.

According to the NJ DOH, it's "reasonable to initiate an investigation, implement prevention and control measures, and contact the local health department" in those situations.

Schools are also urged to maintain a daily log of students and teachers absent due to GI illness. The log should include name, age, gender, classroom, symptoms, date of onset and duration. 

  • Children and staff who are experiencing symptoms of norovirus should stay home from school or daycare until 24-48 hours after symptoms are resolved.
  • Staff involved in food preparation should be restricted from preparing food for 48-72 hours after symptoms have resolved.

In the case of Irving School in Highland Park, all classes were canceled a few weeks ago due to a "gastrointestinal outbreak," reported. Measures like these may be taken to prevent an outbreak but can only be done if cases of GI illnesses are monitored.

Burden of norovirus in the United States (CDC)

According to the CDC, every year, norovirus is responsible for inducing 19 to 21 million instances of vomiting and diarrhea in the United States, resulting in 465,000 emergency room visits,109,000 hospitalizations, and 900 fatalities.

What is norovirus?

Norovirus, also known as the "stomach flu" or "stomach bug," is a very contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea, according to the CDC.

Anyone could get infected and sick with Norovirus. The virus is not related to the flu, the agency said.

What are symptoms of norovirus?

Symptoms of norovirus include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Body aches

"Generally people have stomach or gastrointestinal symptoms within 12 to 48 hours of being exposed," Dr. Purvi Parikh, clinical assistant professor of infectious diseases and immunology at NYU Langone, told FOX 5 NY in an interview.

How does norovirus spread? How do you get norovirus?

  • Having direct contact with someone with norovirus, such as by caring for them, sharing food or eating utensils with them, or eating food handled by them.
  • Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus.
  • Touching surfaces or objects contaminated with Norovirus and then putting your unwashed fingers in your mouth.

"It spreads from contact, by not washing hands properly," Parikh said. It can, unfortunately, live on surfaces for a long period too. That's what makes it so contiguous, and doesn't respond well to hand sanitizer."

How long does norovirus live on surfaces?

Norovirus can stay on objects and surfaces and still infect people for days or weeks. It can also survive some disinfectants, making it hard to get rid of. 

How to avoid norovirus?

  • Wash your hands often.
  • Rinse fruits and vegetables.
  • Cook shellfish thoroughly.
  • Stay home when sick and for two days after symptoms stop.
  • Avoid preparing food for others when sick and for two days after symptoms stop.

Norovirus treatment

The CDC says to drink plenty of liquids to replace fluid loss and prevent dehydration. If you or someone you are caring for is dehydrated, call a doctor.

"The last time these rates were this high were around the same time last year, so hopefully this is the peak and in a few weeks, it should start coming down," Parikh said.

Antibiotics will not help with norovirus illness because antibiotics do not work on viruses.