GP Zone

Play your part this winter to stop the spread of Norovirus – just Think NORO

  • 349 outbreaks of norovirus reported in the community across South West so far this Winter 2017/18, up from 297 in the same time period in 2016/17
  • Schools in the South West have reported 86 norovirus outbreaks, while care home outbreaks are up 64% from last year to 187  
  • Alcohol hand gels don't kill the virus – handwashing is the best way to protect yourself against norovirus
  • We can all play a role in stopping the spread of this unpleasant infectious bug

Norovirus

As reports of Norovirus outbreaks increase across the South West, Public Health England and NHS England are urging people to follow simple steps stop the spread of this nasty bug. 

The infection can live on hard surfaces for hours and spreads very quickly through environments where lots of people are mingling closely, such as schools and nurseries. The best way to protect yourself and others from catching this unpleasant sickness bug is simply to wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap, and to keep the environment you live and work in clean. 

Alcohol or antibacterial hand sanitisers are a popular choice for people wanting to protect themselves from the bugs that circulate during winter, causing illnesses such as norovirus. However what most people don’t know is that hand sanitisers are NOT an effective protection against this common sickness bug. 

Norovirus is a highly contagious stomach bug that causes diarrhoea and vomiting. Most people will recover within a few days and can return to work or school.  However if Norovirus is introduced unintentionally into places where lots of people congregate, such as schools, nurseries, hospitals and care homes, the illness can  spread incredibly quickly and affect vulnerable people. 

In some situations, Norovirus outbreaks can lead to ward or school and nursery closures. This can have a knock-on effect of disrupting peoples’ jobs, routines or putting the health of people with underlying conditions at risk. 

It’s so simple to play your part in stopping the spread of Norovirus – just Think NORO

  • N - No visits to hospitals, care homes and GP surgeries if you are suffering from symptoms of Norovirus - send someone else to visit loved ones until you are better
  • O - Once you’ve been symptom-free for at least 48 hours, you’re safe to return to work, school or visit hospitals and care home
  • R - Regularly wash your hands with soap and warm water, especially after using the toilet, and before eating or preparing food
  • O - Only hand-washing will prevent spread of Norovirus - alcohol hand gels don't kill the virus

Fiona Neely, Consultant in Communicable Diseases for Public Health England South West, said: “Levels of norovirus are increasing in line with expected levels so far this winter but many schools, nurseries, hospitals and care homes across the south west have reported outbreaks in recent weeks.

“We work closely with these institutions throughout the year to ensure that they have the right information and guidance to help prevent the spread of infection. But it’s important for everyone to remember that we all have a role to play in reducing the spread of winter bugs. Norovirus is unusual in that hand sanitisers don’t kill the virus and so hand washing is the best way to stop this nasty infection before it passes on to others.

“The symptoms of norovirus include suddenly feeling sick, projectile vomiting, and watery diarrhoea. Some people also have a slight fever, headaches, painful stomach cramps and aching limbs. The symptoms appear one to two days after you become infected and typically last for up to two or three days.

“Anyone who has been infected should stay off work or school for 48 hours after their symptoms have ceased.”

Dr Caroline Gamlin, Medical Director for NHS England in the South West, said: “We know there is real pressure on the NHS this winter, so if you have any vomiting, diarrhoea or respiratory symptoms please don’t visit relatives and friends in hospital or care homes. The impact can be huge if you spread norovirus or flu – not just on vulnerable patients who are already unwell but on the availability of beds for other people. So please do your bit this winter to help keep others safe.”

Hospitals across the South West remain very busy due to winter pressures but there a range of simple steps which people can take to stay well and avoid having to go to A&E.

These include:

  • as soon as you feel unwell with a cough or cold get advice from a pharmacist, before it gets too serious
  • alternatively if you are ill, call the non-emergency NHS 111 helpline which can advise you on the best service for your needs
  • keep as warm as you can and if possible maintain rooms at 18°c.