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Say no to norovirus

Norovirus affects everyone. It can close hospitals, care homes and schools. It is the most common cause of stomach bugs in England and Wales.

How does norovirus spread?

Norovirus can be caught from contact with an infected person:

  • by consuming contaminated food or water
  • contact with contaminated surfaces or objects

What are noroviruses?

They are a group of viruses that are the most common cause of stomach bugs in England and Wales. In the past, noroviruses have also been called the winter vomiting virus or Norwalk virus.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms begin around 12 to 48 hours after you become infected and can last for 12 to 60 hours. They start with the sudden onset of nausea followed by projectile vomiting and watery diarrhoea. Some people will have a raised temperature, headaches and aching limbs. Most make a full recovery within 1 to 2 days. Some people, usually the very young or elderly, may require rehydration treatment, either at home on in hospital.

Why does norovirus often cause outbreaks?

Norovirus is easily spread from 1 person to another. The virus is able to survive in the environment for many days. As there are many different strains, immunity is short-lived. Outbreaks tend to affect more than half of susceptible people. They usually happen in semi-closed environments like nursing homes, hospitals, schools and cruise ships.

How can these outbreaks be stopped?

Outbreaks can be difficult to control and long-lasting because the virus is easily transmitted and survives in the environment for a long time.

The most effective way to help stop an outbreak, is to disinfect the contaminated areas and ensure good hygiene. For example thorough hand washing and good food hygiene. Alcohol gel is not effective against norovirus.

Anyone who has the symptoms should be isolated or avoid contact with others for a minimum of 48 hours after their symptoms have stopped. Those affected should not go to work or school until they have been symptom free for 48 hours.

How is norovirus treated?

There is no specific treatment for norovirus apart from letting the illness run its course. It is important to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Medical advice should be sought if symptoms do not resolve themselves.

Why does norovirus close hospitals?

Although norovirus doesn’t start in hospitals, if brought in from the community, it can make people who are already very ill even more poorly.

Who is at risk of getting norovirus?

People of all ages can be infected. The very young and the elderly should take extra care if infected, as dehydration is more common in these age groups. Outbreaks can be shortened when control measures are implemented quickly. This will include closing infected areas and using strict hygiene measures.

Are there any long-term effects?

There are no long-term effects from norovirus.

What you can do to help us stop the infection

Do not visit health care settings if you, or someone you’ve been in contact with, has had diarrhoea and/or vomiting until 48 hours after symptoms have ceased. There is a real risk that you could introduce the infection into the area.

Wash your hands frequently with warm water and liquid soap, especially after using the toilet and before preparing food. Alcohol gel is not effective against norovirus.

If you’re concerned about the health of the person you are visiting, speak to a member of staff.

Do not handle or prepare food for other people until you have been symptom free for a minimum of 48 hours.

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