Winter is here and it is that time of year again where norovirus is more common. Did you know between 600,000 and 1 million people living in the UK catch the disease every year (source: www.nhs.uk)?
Norovirus can affect people of all ages and is highly contagious. The virus can easily be spread through direct contact with an infected person, eating contaminated food and drinks or contact with a contaminated surface. More people become ill with the disease during winter although it can be caught at anytime of the year.
It may start with a sudden sick feeling followed by forceful vomiting and diarrhoea. Other symptoms include mild fever, headaches, stomach cramps or aching limbs. Contact your local GP if you think you have the virus.
Outbreaks in congregated areas such as hospitals and schools are common because 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.
So what can be done to help prevent norovirus? Ranjit Virdee, infection control nurse at Heartlands Hospital, explains: “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.
“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.
“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.
“Remaining hydrated is very 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).