Norovirus case rates 77% higher than usual – tips to relieve symptoms

Norovirus: How to prevent catching the virus

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Norovirus is an “unpleasant” bug that typically causes vomiting and diarrhoea. While most people will recover within a few days it can have serious consequences if the patient becomes dehydrated or their vomit is an unusual colour. One expert spoke with about what to do if you become infected.

According to the latest national UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) update, laboratory reports of norovirus are 77 percent higher than the five-season average for the same period prior to the Covid pandemic.

All age groups have been experiencing higher rates of the virus, however, those aged 65 and over, and under five have been worst hit.

With this in mind Bina Mehta, Boots pharmacist, explained some of the symptoms to look out for.

“Norovirus, also known as the winter vomiting bug, is an unpleasant stomach bug causing vomiting and diarrhoea,” she said.

“Main symptoms include feeling sick, being sick and diarrhoea, but in some cases people may also have a high temperature, a headache as well as aching arms and legs.

“These symptoms can start suddenly within one to two days of being infected, and usually go away in about two days.”

What to do if you are infected

Ms Mehta said: “It is important to rest and drink lots of fluids to avoid dehydration, but it usually clears up by itself and can be treated at home.

“If it’s suitable for you, you can take paracetamol for any fever or aches and pains.

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“You can also consider rehydration sachets if you are showing signs of dehydration, such as a dry mouth or dark urine.

“To avoid spreading norovirus you should stay off work or keep your child off school until you or your child has not been sick or had diarrhoea for at least two days, as this is when you are most infectious.

“Norovirus can spread very easily – you can catch it from being in close contact with someone with the virus, touching surfaces or objects that have the virus on them and then touching your mouth or eating food that has been prepared or handled by someone with norovirus.

“Ensure you wash your hands frequently with soap and water to stop the virus spreading. It is important to note that alcohol hand gels do not kill norovirus.”

When to seek emergency help

She added: “If you are worried or concerned you can get advice from 111 who can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one.

“You should call 999 or go to A&E if you or your child vomit blood, have vomit that looks like ground coffee or have green or yellow-green vomit.

“If you suspect something poisonous might have been swallowed, have a stiff neck and pain when looking at bright lights or have a sudden severe headache or stomach ache you should also call 999 or go to A&E.”

Levels of norovirus are highest among the elderly and very young due to the nature of schools and care homes.

The UKHSA says: “Outbreaks in educational settings rose to pre-pandemic levels in the weeks commencing 13 February and 20 February, with the majority being reported in nurseries and other early years settings.

“Outbreaks reported in care home settings also increased to 105 during this period, the highest number of outbreaks reported in any two-week period so far this season.

“The majority of outbreaks caused by norovirus continue to be reported in care home settings.”

The NHS advises staying home from school or work until you are clear of symptoms for at least two days. It also recommends avoiding hospitals and care homes.

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