With winter here, it is that time of year where norovirus is more common. Around 600,000 – 1 million people living in the UK catch the disease every year.
Known as the winter vomiting bug, norovirus can affect people of all ages and is highly contagious. The virus can easily be spread to others through direct contact with an infected person, eating contaminated food and drinks or coming into contact with a contaminated surface.
Norovirus may start with a sudden sick feeling followed by vomiting and diarrhoea. Other symptoms include mild fever, headaches, stomach cramps or aching limbs.
Outbreaks in hospitals and schools are common as the virus can survive for several days on surfaces or objects touched by an infected person. Hospital outbreaks are often caused by visitors bringing norovirus into the hospital as they don’t realise they can pass it on to others once they feel better.
Ranjit Virdee, nurse practitioner in infection control at Heartlands Hospital, explains how to help prevent norovirus: “Remember to wash your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water. Good hygiene and following simple steps such as washing your hands before preparing food and disinfecting any surfaces that may have come into contact with norovirus will help limit the spread of infection.
“You should avoid direct contact with an infected person for at least 48 hours after their symptoms have gone. Also avoid any food prepared by the person during this time.
“Wash any items of clothing or bedding that could have become contaminated with the virus. Wash the items separately and on a hot wash to ensure the virus is killed.
“Rather than seeing your doctor, it is recommended those affected stay at home and let the illness run its course. The symptoms should disappear within two to three days. If your symptoms last longer than a few days, contact your local GP.
“Remaining hydrated is important if you catch norovirus. A healthy adult should be looking to drink around 1.2 litres of fluid daily. Someone who has norovirus will need to drink at least eight glasses of fluid to replace the fluids lost from sickness and diarrhoea.
“Those suffering from the bug should also take paracetamol to relieve any fevers or aches, drink plenty of water and eat foods that are easy to digest such as soup, rice, pasta and bread.”
If you would like further information on norovirus, please visit the NHS Choices website (www.nhs.uk).