Norovirus warning: outbreaks of highly contagious vomiting bug strikes school and hospital wards

Doctors are issuing health warnings following an increase in cases of norovirus, including suspected outbreaks at a school and on hospital wards.

By Claire Schofield
Wednesday, 23rd October 2019, 12:42 pm
Updated Wednesday, 23rd October 2019, 1:43 pm

The highly contagious virus has struck around 700 people in the past 12 weeks, with fears more could be affected as the weather turns cold.

Suspected outbreaks

Health experts are warning people with suspected symptoms of the bug to stay away from schools, hospitals and care homes in an effort to avoid the spread.

The highly contagious virus has struck around 700 people in the past 12 weeks

A number of nasty outbreaks have already been reported across the country, with several hospital wards in Lancashire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and East Yorkshire forced to close or cut visiting hours after patients suffered vomiting and diarrhoea.

Carnforth North Road Primary School in Lancashire was forced to close for a deep clean after dozens of pupils and staff were taken ill, while restrictions were imposed at a ward at Cannock Chase Hospital in Staffordshire and George Eliot Hospital in Nuneaton.

Doctors also warned the bug is currently "doing the rounds" in Hull and East Yorkshire, with the Clinical Commissioning Group urging people who suspect they may be infected to stay at home to avoid the risk of spreading the virus further.

Those in need of medical advice have been urged to call NHS 111, rather than visiting a GP.

Washing your hands frequently with soap and water is the best way prevent norovirus spreading

Common in winter

Known as the winter vomiting bug, norovirus cases typically increase over the colder months, 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 virus is 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

Symptoms and preventing the spread

The NHS states these are the main symptoms of norovirus:

feeling sick (nausea) diarrhoea 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.

Norovirus can usually be treated by yourself at home, with symptoms typically easing in a couple of days.

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 advised you stay off work or school until the symptoms have stopped and avoid visiting anyone in hospital during this time, as this is when you are most infectious.