'Winter vomiting bug' warning issued to residents in North West

Experts have issued advice on how to stop the spread of NorovirusExperts have issued advice on how to stop the spread of Norovirus
Experts have issued advice on how to stop the spread of Norovirus
Public Health England has issued a warning to people in the North West as cases of Norovirus increase in the region.

Public Health England (PHE) is reminding people in the North West to take precautions against spreading nororvirus as cases of the virus begin to increase in the region.

Norovirus is the most common cause of infectious viral gastroenteritis in England and Wales, especially at this time of year. The illness is often known as ‘winter vomiting disease’ because the number of cases tends to increase during the winter months.

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Dr Rosemary McCann, Deputy Director for Health Protection at PHE North West, said: “Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen an increase in the number of outbreaks of suspected viral gastroenteritis being reported across the North West. As we would expect at this time of the year, we’re seeing a significant number of outbreaks in care homes and outbreaks in schools and hospitals are increasing as well. GPs are also reporting an increase in the numbers of consultations for vomiting and diarrhoea symptoms.

“This isn’t unusual in the winter months and PHE nationally is reporting an increase in the number of cases of norovirus confirmed in laboratory testing of gastroenteritis cases. It’s important that we’re all aware that norovirus and other similar infections are increasing in the community at the moment so we can all do what we can to stop the spread of infection.”

The symptoms of norovirus are vomiting, which is often sudden and “projectile”, diarrhoea and sometimes both. Some people may have a raised temperature, headaches and aching limbs.

“The virus is highly infectious and easily transmitted from one person to another,” Dr McCann said. “It spreads very easily because, when someone is ill, the virus can be spread in aerosol form and contaminate a wide area of surfaces around them. Other people then touch those surfaces, come into contact with the virus and become ill themselves. As a result, norovirus tends to spread rapidly, especially in semi-closed environments where large numbers of people congregate close together, like care homes, schools, hospitals and hotels.

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“Although it’s unpleasant, norovirus infection is generally a mild illness and there is no specific treatment, apart from letting the illness run its course. In the vast majority of cases, there is no additional benefit to visiting a GP or A&E department but by doing so, you can risk spreading the infection further in places where there are likely to be people who are more vulnerable to illness.”

The guidance comes after a report, released by Public Health England last week, showed that there have been 1,704 reports of Norovirus across England this season - a 9% increase on the 5-season average for 2011-2016.

PHE advice for avoiding norovirus includes:

- Make sure you wash and dry your hands often and thoroughly, with soap and warm water. Good hand hygiene - whether you have norovirus or not - is important to reduce your risk of catching it – and other viruses around in the winter.

- Don’t rely on alcohol hand gels alone, handwashing is very important.

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- Be especially careful to wash your hands after using the toilet or before touching food.

- If you have vomiting and diarrhoea symptoms:

- It is important to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, especially in the very young or the elderly. Remember you need to drink more than unusual to replace fluids lost from vomiting and diarrhoea

- Consult a pharmacist for advice on over-the-counter medicines to reduce any fever or aches and pains

- Get plenty of rest

- Stay away from work and keep children away from school until at least 48 hours after the symptoms have stopped. Don’t visit vulnerable family or friends, especially people in hospitals or care homes, to reduce the risk of passing the virus on.

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There is no specific treatment for norovirus and seeing a doctor is not usually necessary. Don’t visit your GP or a hospital A&E department, to avoid passing the virus on to others. However, if you or your child has symptoms of severe dehydration, has bloody diarrhoea, your symptoms haven’t improved after a few days or you have a serious underlying health condition, telephone your GP or NHS 111 to get medical advice.

- If you are living in the same household as someone who has symptoms:

- Be careful when clearing up after someone who has been ill – wash your hands frequently.

- Disinfect any surfaces or objects that could be contaminated with a household cleaning product.

- Wash any items of clothing, bedding, or towels that could have been contaminated on a separate hot wash, to ensure the virus is killed.