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Norovirus season starts early

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks
uk hospital room

13th November 2012 - Cases of norovirus or winter vomiting bug have been rising earlier in the season than in previous years.

Norovirus monitoring in England and Wales by the Health Protection Agency found hospitals reporting 58 outbreaks occurring from the start of October to the beginning of November.

48 of these resulted in ward or bay closures or restriction to hospital admissions.

The norovirus season is monitored from July to the end of the following June. Already laboratory confirmed cases have risen 27% this year on the same period in 2011.


Norovirus is also known as small round structured virus (SRSV) or Norwalk-like virus.

It is common in places such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools and cruise liners.

Norovirus causes an upset stomach, also known as gastroenteritis, and the main symptoms are diarrhoea and vomiting. Some people also experience fever, headache, stomach cramps or aching limbs.

Although it is an unpleasant illness to catch, for most people symptoms are generally mild and it clears up within two to three days of infection.

Not all cases of norovirus get reported, but the NHS estimates that between 600,000 and a million people in the UK catch the bug each year.

There is no specific treatment for norovirus, but drinking plenty of water is important to replace fluids lost from diarrhoea and vomiting. Age-appropriate paracetamol or ibuprofen can help with aches and pains. The NHS advises people to stay at home rather than going to the doctor and seek medical advice if they have concerns.

Tighter rules for managing norovirus

Last winter, new guidelines were published for dealing with cases of the winter vomiting bug.

Patients with norovirus should be treated in single rooms or bays to prevent whole hospitals from being closed.

Outbreaks of the winter vomiting bug have frequently led to ward closures and the virus is estimated to cost the NHS more than £100 million each year.

Preventing norovirus

Good hygiene is an important way to help avoid norovirus infection or spreading it to others.

It is also important not to share towels or flannels with an infected person.

Care should be taken to clean up and disinfect areas where an infected person has been.

If you have norovirus, avoid contact with other people for at least 48 hours after your symptoms have gone.

Reviewed on November 13, 2012

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