Norovirus rates are 26 per higher than they usually are at this time of year, a report published today by Public Health England revealed. A total of 332 people are confirmed to have had the bug between October 28 and November 10, with 18 outbreaks closing hospital wards across England and Wales.
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Responding to the recent outbreaks, health officials have been warning people with symptoms of the virus not to go to hospitals or GP surgeries as they may spread it to others.
The area of the UK with the most confirmed individual cases during the two-week period is the South West of England, with 62.
The South East has had the most hospital outbreaks with six cases.
Last month, Carnforth North Road Primary School in Lancashire was shut after 50 pupils and staff were reportedly struck down by norovirus, and at a ward at Cannock Chase Hospital in Staffordshire visiting hours were restricted to just an hour a day due to an outbreak.
Similar restrictions were put in place at George Eliot Hospital in Nuneaton, Warwickshire for four days, and doctors told patients norovirus is currently “doing the rounds” in Hull and East Yorkshire, according to HullLive.
Rock Ferry Primary School in Wirral also closed this week after a norovirus outbreak meant over 100 children were taken ill. Large number of staff were also affected.
With this year’s figures of norovirus cases showing a rise of 70, equating t around five more infections each day, is norovirus set to spread and cause even more havoc?
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Dr Andrew Thornber, chief medical officer at Now Patient, said it’s hard to tell.
He added: “But it is a highly contagious bug and so if it can be contained and areas affected are treated hygienically then it should limit the spread.
“People should avoid going into places where it can spread quickly (like schools/hospitals) to try and contain.”
Norovirus usually starts around October each year and ends around April.
As there’s no vaccine or immediate treatment for norovirus, the best form of defence is prevention.
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And the one preventative method you should carry out to avoid catching the virus, according to Dr Jonathan Hayes, is to practice good hygiene.
A GP and clinical chair at Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) CCG, Dr Hayes told SomersetLive: “One of the best ways to protect against norovirus is by practicing good hygiene. This includes thorough hand washing with soap and warm water after using the toilet and before eating or preparing foods.
“Most people will make a full recovery within a couple of days but it is important to drink plenty of fluids during that time to prevent dehydration especially in the very young, elderly or those with weakened immunity.
“Also, if you are experiencing symptoms of norovirus please don’t visit hospitals, GP surgeries or care homes. The impact can be huge if you spread norovirus – not just on vulnerable patients who are already unwell but on the availability of beds for other people.”
The NHS also echoes this with advice on how norovirus is spread.
It advises: “You can catch norovirus from close contact with someone with norovirus, touching surfaces or objects that have the virus on them, then touching your mouth, and eating food that’s been prepared or handled by someone with norovirus.
“Washing your hands frequently with soap and water is the best way to stop it spreading.
“Alcohol hand gels don’t kill norovirus.”
What are the symptoms of norovirus to look out for?
The NHS lists the main symptoms of norovirus as:
- Feeling sick (nausea)
- Being sick (vomiting)
A person with norovirus may also experience:
- A high temperature of 38C or above
- A headache
- Aching arms and legs
These symptoms usually start within one to two days of being infected.
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