The UK Health Security Agency has confirmed that norovirus cases have significantly increased in England, with laboratory reports of the virus 66% higher than the average at this time of year. The biggest increase in laboratory-confirmed norovirus has been seen in the group of these aged 65 and over, and whilst high numbers of cases in this age group are expected at this time of year, the current levels haven't been seen in over a decade.1
Norovirus, also called the "winter vomiting bug", is a stomach bug that causes vomiting and diarrhoea. It can be very unpleasant, but usually goes away in about two days.2
Norovirus is highly infectious and is easily spread through contact with an infectious person or with contaminated surfaces. One of the best ways to prevent the spread of norovirus is by practising good hand hygiene. Most people will make a full recovery within two to three days, but it is important to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, especially for the very young, elderly, or those with weakened immune systems who are more at risk.1
The number of outbreaks caused by norovirus have increased in hospitals, schools, and care homes, with the majority of outbreaks reported in care home settings.
Dr Lesley Larkin, Surveillance Lead, Gastrointestinal Infections and Food Safety (One Health) Division at UKHSA, said, "Norovirus levels are currently the highest we have seen at this time of year for over a decade. Most reported cases are in the over 65s and we're also seeing a rise in reported outbreaks, particularly in care home settings."
NHS Medical Director, Professor Sir Stephen Powis, added, "The number of people in hospitals with norovirus has risen sigificantly in line with what we are seeing in the community and in care homes.
"It is a really unpleasant illness to catch, but for the vast majority of people it will usually pass in a couple of days, and self-treating at home is the best way to help yourself and avoid putting others at risk."
Norovirus levels are currently the highest we have seen at this time of year in over a decade.
Dr Lesley Larkin, UKHSA
"Please stay at home if you are experiencing norovirus symptoms and do not return to work (particularly if you work with vulnerable people or food) or send sick children to school or nursery until 48 hours after symptoms have cleared. If you have a loved one in a care home or hospital, please avoid visiting until 48 hours after symptoms have cleared." - Professor Sir Stephen Powis
Stay at home if you are experiencing norovirus symptoms.
Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water but especially after using the toilet or an episode of illness and before eating or preparing food.
Avoid cooking and helping prepare meals for others until 48 hours after symptoms have stopped, as norovirus can be spread through food contaminated by the virus when food is handled by a symptomatic person or infected individual.
Wash any contaminated clothing or bedding using detergent at 60°C and, if possible, wear disposable gloves to handle contaminated items.1
When someone with norovirus vomits, the droplets contaminate the surrounding surfaces. Frequently disinfect potentially contaminated household surfaces and commonly used objects such as toilets, taps, telephones, door handles, and kitchen surfaces.
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