Winter is a time when illness and viruses tend to strike, with norovirus being particularly common at this time of year.
Dubbed the winter vomiting bug, norovirus cases typically soar during the colder months and a number of nasty outbreaks have been reported across the country, forcing the closure of several wards and schools.
Five schools in Leeds have recently been forced to shut recently due to a norovirus outbreak, which saw hundreds of students fall ill with symptoms of vomiting and diarrhoea.
Elsewhere, there have been outbreaks reported on hospital wards in Lancashire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and East Yorkshire, while schools in the North East and Lancashire have also had to close to undergo a deep clean.
Outbreaks of norovirus typically increase over the winter period, although it can occur at any time of the year.
There have been 696 laboratory reports of norovirus in England and Wales since early August, according to Public Health England – slightly lower than the average of 703 during the same period in the past five seasons (2014/15 to 2018/19).
The Clinical Commissioning Group has been urging people with suspected symptoms of the bug to stay at home to avoid spreading the highly contagious virus further.
How long should you stay off work?
The NHS advises staying off work or school until the symptoms have stopped for at least two days, as this is when you are the most infectious.
It is also recommended that you avoid visiting anyone in hospital during this time.
Norovirus can usually be treated by yourself at home, with symptoms typically easing in two to three days.
What are the symptoms?
The main symptoms of norovirus are:
- feeling sick (nausea)
- being sick (vomiting)
Affected people may also experience a high temperature of 38C or above, a headache, and aching arms and legs, with symptoms starting suddenly within one to two days of being infected.
How to stop it spreading
Norovirus can spread very easily and can be caught from:
- close contact with someone with norovirus
- touching surfaces or objects that have the virus on them and then touching your mouth
- eating food that has been handled by someone with the virus
Washing your hands frequently with soap and water is the best way to stop the virus from spreading. Alcohol hand gels do not kill norovirus.
It is also advisable to avoid sharing any towels and flannels with someone who has been infected, and to wash any items of clothing or bedding that could have become contaminated separately on a hot wash (60°C) to ensure the virus is killed.
Work surfaces should also be disinfected with a bleach-based household cleaner to help prevent further spread of germs.