Norovirus: Health experts warn of outbreak as Covid restrictions ease

16 July 2021, 20:30

Norovirus outbreaks are increasing in England.
Norovirus outbreaks are increasing in England. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Health experts have warned that there could be a norovirus outbreak as Covid restrictions are lifted over summer.

The highly infectious bug – which causes vomiting and diarrhoea – is usually common in winter months.

Public Health England (PHE) experts have warned that cases are on the rise.

Reports of outbreaks in nurseries and childcare facilities were much higher than expected for summer months, but there has been an increase in cases for all age groups, PHE said.

In the last five weeks, 154 outbreaks were notified – a jump from the average of 53 outbreaks for the same time period in the previous five years.

The virus is transmitted through contact with those infected or contaminated surfaces, but normally only lasts for a couple of days once a person is infected.

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Professor Saheer Gharbia, deputy director of PHE's National Infection Service, said: "Norovirus, commonly known as the winter vomiting bug, has been at lower levels than normal throughout the pandemic with less opportunity to spread between people in the community, but as restrictions have eased we have seen an increase in cases across all age groups.

"Symptoms include sudden onset of nausea, projectile vomiting and diarrhoea but can also include a high temperature, abdominal pain and aching limbs.

"Stay at home if you are experiencing norovirus symptoms and do not return to work or send children to school or nursery until 48 hours after symptoms have cleared.

"As with Covid-19, hand washing is really important to help stop the spread of this bug, but remember, unlike for Covid-19 alcohol gels do not kill off norovirus so soap and water is best."

PHE advised that bedding and clothing of those affected should be washed at 60C, using disposable gloves to handle contaminated items.

It was also suggested that those who are ill avoid cooking until two days after symptoms stop, as the virus can be passed on through contaminated foods too.

People showing symptoms should avoid visiting their GP or hospital but can contact NHS 111 or talk to their GP by phone if they are worried.