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Cases of norovirus have doubled

Spread of the illness has already led to ward closures

Jo Carlowe

Friday, 10 December 2010

There has been an increase in norovirus activity in the last two months according to experts.

Figures from the Health Protection Agency reveal that laboratory reports of norovirus have doubled in November compared to October. At the start of November the HPA recorded 43 outbreaks of norovirus in hospitals of which 39 have led to ward closures.

John Harris, a HPA epidemiologist specialising in norovirus said: "Data from the HPA hospital norovirus reporting system shows the number of outbreaks reported in hospitals over the past month have increased by 50% over the previous month.”

He urged the public not to visit their GP in the event of contracting the illness. "Norovirus comes on fairly suddenly, with little warning and is highly contagious. Anyone who thinks they may have it should not to go to their doctor's surgery or A&E as this could spread the illness to vulnerable people and healthcare workers. This is particularly important in hospitals as norovirus outbreaks can lead to the ward closures and severe disruption to hospital services."

Dr Bob Adak, head of epidemiological services in the gastrointestinal diseases department at the HPA, said: "Every year millions of people will be affected by a bout of norovirus and for most people it will be an unpleasant but short lived illness lasting around two days.

"There is no specific treatment for norovirus other than to let the illness run its course. People who are unwell should ensure they take plenty of drinks to replace lost fluids and it's particularly important for those caring for young children or the elderly to ensure that they are well hydrated.

"The first port of call if someone has symptoms consistent with norovirus should be to call NHS Direct or their local GP practice for advice."

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