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Norovirus cases increase significantly in England



  • Current Norovirus laboratory notifications over 60% higher than five-season average

  • The majority of outbreaks in recent weeks were reported in care homes

  • Cases in over 65’s at highest level in over 10 years

UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) data released today shows a sharp increase in confirmed cases of Norovirus – the most common cause of vomiting and diarrhoea bugs.

National surveillance data shows laboratory reports of the virus are 66% higher than the average at this time of year. The biggest increase in laboratory confirmed norovirus has been seen in the 65 and over age group. While high numbers of cases in this age group is expected at this time of year, these levels haven’t been seen in over a decade.

In response to the increase in cases, UKHSA is reminding the public of the actions that they can take to reduce the spread of norovirus.

Norovirus is highly infectious and is easily spread through contact with someone with the infection or with contaminated surfaces. One of the best ways to prevent the spread of norovirus is by practicing good hand hygiene. Most people will make a full recovery within 2-3 days but it is important to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, especially for the very young, elderly or those with weakened immune systems who are more at risk.

The number of outbreaks caused by the vomiting bug have increased across all settings in recent weeks, including hospitals, schools and care homes, with the majority of outbreaks reported in care home settings.

Dr Lesley Larkin, Surveillance Lead, Gastrointestinal Infections and Food Safety (One Health) Division, at the UK Health Security Agency, said:“Norovirus levels are currently the highest we have seen at this time of year in over a decade. Most reported cases are in the over 65s and we’re also seeing a rise in reported outbreaks, particularly in care home settings. Please stay at home if you are experiencing norovirus symptoms and do not return to work (particularly if you work with vulnerable people or food) or send sick children to school or nursery until 48 hours after symptoms have cleared. If you have a loved one in a care home or hospital, please avoid visiting until 48 hours after symptoms have cleared.

“Regular hand washing is really important to help stop the spread of this bug, but remember, alcohol gels do not kill off norovirus, so soap and warm water is best.”

How to reduce the spread of norovirus

  1. Stay at home if you are experiencing norovirus symptoms. Do not return to work or send children to school until 48 hours after symptoms have cleared. Also avoid visiting elderly or poorly relatives, particularly if they are in hospital or a care home.

  2. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water but especially after using the toilet or an episode of illness and before eating or preparing food. Alcohol gels don’t kill norovirus.

  3. When someone with norovirus vomits, the droplets contaminate the surrounding surfaces. A bleach-based household cleaner or a combination of bleach and hot water should be used to disinfect potentially contaminated household surfaces and commonly used objects such as toilets, taps, telephones, door handles and kitchen surfaces.

  4. If you are ill, avoid cooking and helping prepare meals for others until 48 hours after symptoms have stopped, as norovirus can be spread through food contaminated by the virus when food is handled by symptomatic people or infected individuals.

  5. Wash any contaminated clothing or bedding using detergent and at 60°C and, if possible, wear disposable gloves to handle contaminated items.

NHS.uk has information on symptoms, how to help yourself feel better at home, and when to seek medical attention. https://ww.nhs.uk/conditions/norovirus/

UKHSA’s National Norovirus Surveillance Team continue to closely monitor national surveillance data from multiple systems to ensure early detection of any unusual norovirus activity.

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