Norovirus bug reported to be sweeping England – but health chiefs deny outbreak

Norovirus bug reported to be sweeping England – but health chiefs deny outbreak
The Norovirus bug. Shutterstock

Horror stories abound of a highly infectious stomach bug rapidly sweeping the UK – but conflicting reports are causing confusion among the public.

Reports of several cases of the bug, which causes nausea, projectile vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain, have been reported across the country – but according to health chiefs, there has NOT been an ‘outbreak’ of Norovirus across the UK.

Despite the fact people continue to fall victim the bug, which is usually associated with winter given its alias ‘the winter vomiting bug’, Public Health England have said the number of cases has not gone up.

There have been reports of the bug in recent days in Devon, Cornwall, Gloucestershire, the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Suffolk, Lincolnshire, North Wales and South Wales, but Public Health England insists that its data shows there has been no increase.

Dr Nick Phin, Deputy Director, Public Health England, said: “The number of laboratory reports for norovirus are in line with expected figures for this time of year, which is inconsistent with reports of an outbreak.

“PHE continually monitors laboratory reports of norovirus and other illnesses.

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“Sickness and diarrhoea can be caused by different stomach bugs, including norovirus, and can be avoided by practicing good hygiene.

“This includes thorough hand washing with soap and hot water after using the toilet and before eating or preparing foods. Anyone with vomiting and diarrhoea should not be preparing food for others.”

Symptoms of norovirus

You’re likely to have norovirus if you experience:

  • suddenly feeling sick
  • projectile vomiting
  • watery diarrhoea

Some people also have a slight fever, headaches, painful stomach cramps and aching limbs.

The symptoms appear one to two days after you become infected and typically last for up to two or three days.

What to do if you have norovirus

If you do get norovirus, the NHS website gives advice on what you can do to ease the symptoms.

Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. You need to drink more than usual to replace the fluids lost from vomiting and diarrhoea – as well as water, adults could also try fruit juice and soup. Avoid giving fizzy drinks or fruit juice to children as it can make their diarrhoea worse. Babies should continue to feed as usual, either with breast milk or other milk feeds.

Take paracetamol for any fever or aches and pains.

Get plenty of rest.

If you feel like eating, eat plain foods such as soup, rice, pasta and bread.

Use special rehydration drinks made from sachets bought from pharmacies if you have signs of dehydration, such as a dry mouth or dark urine.

Adults can take antidiarrhoeal and anti-emetic (anti-vomiting) medication – these aren’t suitable for everyone though, so you should check the medicine leaflet or ask or your pharmacist or GP for advice before trying them.

Babies and young children, especially if they’re less than a year old, have a greater risk of becoming dehydrated.

How to prevent norovirus

It’s not always possible to avoid getting norovirus, but following the advice below can help stop the virus spreading.

Stay off work or school until at least 48 hours after the symptoms have passed. You should also avoid visiting anyone in hospital during this time.

Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water , particularly after using the toilet and before preparing food. Don’t rely on alcohol hand gels, as they don’t kill the virus.

Disinfect any surfaces or objects that could be contaminated . It’s best to use a bleach-based household cleaner.

Wash any items of clothing or bedding that could have become contaminated separately on a hot wash to ensure the virus is killed.

Don’t share towels and flannels.

Flush away any infected poo or vomit in the toilet and clean the surrounding area.

Avoid eating raw, unwashed produce and only eat oysters from a reliable source, as oysters can carry norovirus.