It’s the winter sickness bug everybody dreads, but reports suggest that cases of norovirus could be on the rise again this season. Such concerns have lead Wales’ largest health board, Betsi Cadwaladr, to urge people to be alert for symptoms of the stomach bug – which is highly contagious.
This comes after a 2016 outbreak of norovirus caused nine hospital wards to close in north Wales alone. It is thought that the bug costs the UK economy approximately £15m every year, although it is difficult to monitor the true extent to which people are affected.
As winter approaches, Public Health England is issuing advice on how to avoid getting norovirus and what to do if you become unwell. Norovirus is an unpleasant vomiting bug that usually lasts about two days. There’s not much that can be done to treat it but there are ways to reduce the risk of passing it on to those around you.
Nick Phin, National Infection Service Deputy Director, PHE said:
“Norovirus can be unpleasant and is easily passed on to those around you. Most people get over it within a day or two but in the very young, elderly or those who have weakened immune systems it can last longer and it is easy to get dehydrated, so it is important to drink plenty of fluids to prevent this.
“It is transmitted by touching hands or surfaces that the virus has landed on. All surfaces should be thoroughly disinfected after any episode of illness.
“Those who have diarrhoea and vomiting should not prepare food until 48 hours after symptoms have disappeared. We advise that they should avoid visiting GP surgeries, care homes and hospitals if they have symptoms. If anyone has symptoms and is concerned they should contact NHS 111 or talk to their GP by phone.”
The reason that norovirus can become such a problem is that humans do not develop an immunity to it, meaning that it can be spread easily and rapidly. So, what symptoms should you look out for, and how can you protect yourself? NetDoctor GP Dr Roger Henderson explains…
- Sudden nausea and projectile vomiting
- Watery diarrhoea
- Stomach cramps
- Aching limbs
Infection is easily spread from person to person, through contact with an infected individual or through a contaminated surface. The virus takes between 12 and 48 hours to take hold after infection and lasts for up to three days. A person remains contagious for 48 hours after symptoms clear.
- Wash your hands after using the toilet and at regular intervals throughout the day
- Disinfect any surface that’s been contaminated with vomit or diarrhoea from the illness
- Don’t prepare food for others until three days after symptoms have cleared
- Wear gloves while cleaning or disinfecting
- Avoid close contact with an infected person
Norovirus does not have any long-term effects on a person’s health, but it can be particularly nasty in young children and elderly people.