Winter vomiting disease (Calicivirus)

Vinterkräksjuka (Calicivirus) - engelska

Winter vomiting disease is caused by the calicivirus and is one of the commonest forms of stomach complaint in Sweden. You can get a stomach complaint for many different reasons. In order to prevent infection, good hygiene is important, primarily washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water when you have been to the toilet.

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Calicivirus affects all age groups. Children suffer most from vomiting, and adults from diarrhoea. Some people never get winter vomiting disease even if they have been exposed to the virus. This is presumably the result of congenital resistance.

Symptoms of winter vomiting disease

There are two types of calicivirus – nanovirus, which is the most common type, and sapovirus, less common. Both have the same symptoms:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • stomach ache.

Symptoms can last for one to three days. You may also have 

  • fever
  • headache
  • muscle pain.

The problems usually persist for one to two days, sometimes a day or so longer. You are not normally contagious two days after the symptoms have disappeared. Make sure you are quite well before you go back to work or school.

The illness occurs mostly between November and April, with a peak between January and March. That is why it is called winter vomiting disease. But it can occur at other times of the year, often in connection with contagions from food or water.

Winter vomiting disease can be similar to other stomach complaints, but differs from them in its sudden onset. Read more about other causes of stomach complaints with diarrhoea and vomiting.

How winter vomiting disease is spread

Winter vomiting disease is very contagious. A single person can infect an entire workplace or preschool. Winter vomiting disease is spread through

  • direct contact with infected people.
  • indirect contact with infected people (if someone vomits, the infection can spread through small droplets in the air).
  • food and beverages that have been handled by a person who is or is about to be sick.
  • drinking water or food washed in contaminated water and then not boiled, such as frozen berries and vegetables. Calicivirus is destroyed by temperatures above 70°C, but not by freezing.
  • some shellfish stored in water, such as oysters.

It usually takes between 12 and 48 hours from the time you are infected before you become ill.

If you have had winter vomiting disease, you may have a brief period of protection from the illness. But you may become sick several times.

When should I seek medical care?

Stomach sickness usually goes away by itself after a few days, but severe diarrhoea and vomiting in infants, the elderly or people with other diseases can be serious.Contact a medical centre by phone or call and get medical advice by phone on 1177 if

  • you vomit a lot and you are not getting enough fluids
  • you are urinating very little
  • your child with winter vomiting disease is tired or weak and has little or no desire to play.

You should also contact a medical centre or ring 1177 if

  • you are very tired and weak.
  • you have diarrhoea containing blood.
  • you have a high fever and feel cold.
  • you have severe stomach pain or recurrent vomiting.
  • you have a stomach complaint and take medicine for heart failure, diabetes or another serious disease.
  • you work in the care or health care professions.
  • the stomach complaint has occurred during or immediately after a trip abroad, especially if you did not have access to clean water.
  • you have had diarrhoea for more than a week.
  • the vomiting does not start to disappear within a day.

Important! The calicivirus is very contagious. Always call the care centre before you go there. They can prepare for your visit and make sure you do not infect others.

What can I do myself?

It is important to maintain your fluid balance by drinking a lot. Your body absorbs fluid best if you drink little and often. If you find drinking difficult, you could take water by the teaspoonful. When you feel better, you can start to eat as usual again, but continue to drink often as long as you have loose stools.

If you vomit a lot or have a great deal of diarrhoea, your body will lose both fluid and salts. You can also take fluid replacements to replace the water and salts your body has lost. You can buy fluid replacements at the pharmacy or mix your own.

If your child does not want to take fluid replacement, try them with the drink the child likes. Keep your child under observation and check on their general condition and ensure that they urinate.

Avoid becoming infected yourself

You can reduce the risk of yourself becoming infected by:

  • always washing your hands with soap and water, especially before meals and after going to the toilet. It is not enough to use hand sanitizer as this does not affect the virus that spreads the disease.
  • use liquid soap and paper hand towels in places where a lot of people gather, for example schools, preschools, workplaces and other public places.
  • avoid eating in buffets where a lot of people come into contact with the food.
  • avoid visiting people with stomach complaints.

Avoid infecting other people

You can reduce the risk of infecting others by:

  • washing your hands often with soap and water
  • not cooking food for other people
  • being extra careful with your personal hygiene
  • not visiting places where you can infect people.
  • staying home from preschool, school, work or other activities for at least a day after you have become symptom-free from both vomiting and diarrhoea. For children at preschool, two days.

You do not need to stay at home from work if someone in your family is poorly and you feel healthy. But it is important to wash your hands carefully before you leave home, and to return home immediately if you get the symptoms.

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