CASES of norovirus are climbing in the UK as experts urge Brits to take action to stop the bug from spreading.
Infections are 73 per cent higher than the five season average – with the highest cases being seen in the under fives and the over 65s, new data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows.
The UKHSA report comes after NHS data showed that cases of the bug in hospitals have fallen, but infections still remain well above levels at this time last year.
The latest figure of 689 cases is more than twice the number at the equivalent point in 2022, when the average stood at 293, according to NHS data.
However, it’s important to note that norovirus cases aren’t always reported – meaning the figure could be far higher.
The average cases reached 840 earlier this month, which was the highest number since reporting began for the current virus season in November.
In hospitals, around 689 beds per day were occupied last week by patients with diarrhoea and vomiting or norovirus-like symptoms, down 18 per cent from 840 in the previous week.
Amy Douglas, senior surveillance scientist for Gastrointestinal Infections and Food Safety Division at the UK Health Security Agency, said: “Norovirus cases are still high and those aged 65 and over and under 5s are most impacted.
“Most outbreaks are taking place in care homes, so it’s really important we take steps to help stop the spread. Please avoid visiting hospitals and care homes until 48 hours after your symptoms have stopped.”
She added that hand gels don’t kill norovirus, so handwashing with soap and warm water is best.
“If you or your child get the virus, do not return to work (particularly if you work with vulnerable people or food) or send your children back to school until 48 hours after symptoms stop.
“Using bleach-based products to clean surfaces will also help stop the virus from spreading.
“While unwell, you should also drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration which can result in hospitalisation, particularly for vulnerable groups such as young children, older adults and the immunocompromised.”
The 6 norovirus signs you must know
The symptoms of norovirus come on suddenly and the NHS states the main signs are:
- feeling sick (nausea)
- being sick (vomiting)
- you may also have a high temperature
- a headache
- aching arms and legs
Norovirus can spread very easily and you can catch it from having close contact with someone who has the bug.
Touching your mouth after touching surfaces or objects that have the virus on them could also lead to you getting it.
Alcohol-based hand gels do not kill norovirus, NHS guidance warns, so washing your hands frequently with soap and water is best way to stop it from spreading.
If you or your child have norovirus, you can usually treat it at home. Make sure to have plenty of rest and avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of fluids.
You’ll usually start to feel better within two to three days.
How to protect yourself from norovirus
Norovirus can be nasty, but there are ways that you can prevent you and your family catching the bug.
- Pay close attention to hygiene – wash your hands frequently, using soap and water
- Avoid close contact with people who are obviously sick
If you or members of your household are ill:
- Try to keep those with symptoms away from others until the illness has subsided for at least 48 hours
- Clean frequently – disinfect any potentially contaminated surfaces or objects with a bleach-based household cleaner or a combination of bleach and water. This includes toilets, taps, telephones, door handles and kitchen surfaces
- Wash contaminated clothing or bedding using detergent at high temperature (60C)
- Do not allow anyone who is sick to prepare food for other people
- Anyone who has symptoms should drink fluids and stay well hydrated. Consider adding rehydration salts to water. Eat plain foods (if you can manage eating).
- Seek medical attention if symptoms are not improving after 24 hours, or if concerned. This is especially important for young children and the elderly, as they are prone to rapid dehydration