How to Test for Norovirus

July 10, 2023by Jamie Browning0

Norovirus, also called the “winter vomiting bug”, is a highly contagious virus that causes a condition called gastroenteritis, which brings on intense vomiting and diarrhoea. There are roughly 685 million cases of Norovirus each year, resulting in an estimated 200,000 deaths.

The importance of testing for Norovirus cannot be overstated. Early detection allows us to take immediate action to prevent its spread and protect others from getting sick.

What are the Symptoms of Norovirus?

Before we dive into the ways to test for Norovirus, it’s essential to know what to look out for. Here’s what you need to know:

What are the common symptoms?

Norovirus can wreak havoc on your digestive system, causing a variety of unpleasant symptoms. The NHS lists the most common symptoms as:

  • feeling sick (nausea)
  • being sick (vomiting)
  • diarrhoea

You may also have:

  • a high temperature
  • a headache
  • aching arms and legs

How soon after exposure do symptoms appear?

Norovirus symptoms usually appear within 24 to 48 hours after exposure to the virus. So, if you’ve been in contact with someone who has Norovirus or consumed contaminated food or water, keep an eye out for these symptoms.

How long do symptoms last?

The duration of Norovirus symptoms varies from person to person, but on average, they last for about 1 to 3 days. Thankfully, Norovirus is usually a short-lived illness, but it’s important to note that some people may continue to experience symptoms for longer.

The NHS advises that you should stay off school or work until you have not been sick or had diarrhoea for at least 2 days as this is when you’re most infectious.

Young man having nausea at home. Feeling sick

Suggested reading: If you want to find out more about Norovirus check out: What Is Norovirus & How to Prevent It

Is There a Test for Norovirus and What Does it Involve?

A Norovirus infection is usually diagnosed based on your symptoms, although there are several testing methods available to determine if someone has contracted the virus. According to the Cleveland Clinic, tests are usually only necessary if you have an underlying medical condition that affects your immune system and your ability to fight infections.

The most common method to test for Norovirus is by analysing a stool sample. The sample is collected and sent to a laboratory, where it is examined for the presence of Norovirus genetic material.

Why Should I Test for Norovirus?

High-risk regions and recent outbreaks

In regions with a history of Norovirus outbreaks or within communities experiencing an ongoing outbreak, testing becomes vital. Identifying the virus early can help implement appropriate control measures and prevent further spread and outbreaks.

Importance of testing for vulnerable individuals

Norovirus testing is especially important to protect vulnerable individuals like children and older adults. The virus can be particularly severe for these individuals and early detection means they can receive the necessary medical interventions.

Dehydration is one of the most serious complications of a Norovirus infection. It can cause severe symptoms and even death if left untreated.

Warning signs of dehydration include:

  • Fatigue
  • Feeling thirsty and lightheaded
  • A dry mouth and throat
  • Having dark-coloured, strong-smelling urine
  • Passing urine less often than usual

How Can I Get Tested for Norovirus?

Knowing how to get tested for Norovirus is essential for prompt diagnosis and appropriate management. There are two main ways to get tested for the virus: at home using a DIY testing kit or at a healthcare facility.

How to test for Norovirus at home

At-home Norovirus testing kits have become increasingly popular and convenient. These kits can be obtained through online platforms, pharmacies, or healthcare providers and typically require a stool sample.

Norovirus rapid test kits include instructions on sample collection and provide a convenient way to test for Norovirus in the comfort of your own home. Results can be seen in as little as 15 minutes and have a 94% accuracy rate according to leading test kit providers.

How to get tested for Norovirus at a healthcare facility

If you prefer a healthcare professional to conduct the test, visit your GP or local hospital where they can assist in collecting the necessary samples. The samples will be sent to a laboratory for testing and diagnosis.

Availability of testing and treatment

Norovirus testing is readily available, and various options are accessible to individuals seeking a diagnosis. You can choose between rapid at-home testing kits or visiting a healthcare facility for professional assistance.

It’s important to note that testing availability may vary depending on your location and local testing capacity. During periods of increased demand or outbreaks, there might be temporary limitations or delays in obtaining testing appointments or receiving results.

You can check with local healthcare providers or health authorities for specific information on testing availability in your area.

Disinfecting wipes to wipe surface of desk, keyboard, mouse at office

How Long Does it Take to Test for Norovirus?

The duration for Norovirus testing depends on the testing method used and the laboratory’s efficiency.

Generally, it takes around 24 to 48 hours to receive the test results from a laboratory. However, during periods of increased testing demand or outbreaks, there might be a slight delay.

As mentioned, Norovirus rapid test kits can give you results in as little as 15 minutes.

What Should I Do if My Norovirus Test is Positive?

Receiving a positive Norovirus test result can be concerning, but try not to panic! It’s crucial to take the appropriate steps for your health and to prevent further transmission.

Here’s what you should do:

Seeking medical treatment

If you experience severe symptoms or belong to a high-risk group, you should consult a healthcare professional straight away. They can provide guidance on managing your symptoms and preventing health complications.

High-risk groups include:

  • Young children
  • Older adults
  • Pregnant women
  • People with weakened immune systems


To prevent spreading Norovirus to others, it’s important to isolate yourself until you have fully recovered and for at least 48 hours after symptoms subside.

Here are six tips to help you manage your symptoms and avoid spreading the virus:

  1. Follow good hygiene practices e.g. wash hands regularly using soap and water
  2. Avoid sharing personal items if you or someone you live with has symptoms
  3. Regularly clean surfaces using a quality disinfectant such as Byotrol 4-in-1 multi-purpose spray
  4. Get plenty of rest and drink fluids to stay hydrated
  5. Seek medical attention if your symptoms are severe
  6. Avoid visiting anyone in the hospital

If you want to find out more about how long Norovirus survives and how it spreads check out, How Long Does Norovirus Live on Surfaces?

Informing recent contacts

It’s important to inform people you have been in close contact with, especially within the 48 hours before symptoms appear. This will allow them to take necessary precautions and monitor their own health for symptoms of the virus.

Recommendations for wellness and mental health

Recovering from Norovirus can be physically and mentally challenging. Ensure you get plenty of rest, stay hydrated, and follow a balanced diet to help speed up your recovery.

Seek support from loved ones and consider reaching out to healthcare professionals for additional assistance.

Final thoughts

Testing for Norovirus is crucial in identifying the virus and taking necessary actions to prevent it from spreading.

Testing can be done at home with convenient testing kits or at healthcare facilities with the assistance of medical professionals.

If you suspect Norovirus or have been in close contact with someone who has it, watch out for common symptoms like nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.

If you test positive for Norovirus, seeking medical treatment, self-isolating, and informing recent contacts are important steps to prevent further transmission.

For more information and personalised advice, we encourage you to contact healthcare professionals. They can provide you with the most up-to-date information and guide you through the testing process.

Concerned about Norovirus? Get in touch to arrange specialist infection control

At Ultima, we offer professional disease control services for Norovirus, Avian Flu, Strep A, and Covid-19. Our biohazard cleaners have more than 20 years of experience and will ensure that infectious pathogens are eliminated quickly, effectively, and discretely.

Feel free to contact us to learn more about our Norovirus infection control service or visit our website to explore our complete range of specialist cleaning services.

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