What you need to know about the norovirus


Last updated at 13:10 03 January 2008

Doctors have warned those struck down by a violent stomach bug sweeping the country not to return to work to prevent the virus from spreading. Here we look at what you need to know about the infection...

What is the norovirus?

The Norovirus is one of the most common cause of gastroenteritis (stomach bug) in the UK. It is also known as the 'winter vomiting disease' because people tend to get them during the winter months.

The virus affects between 600,000 and one million people in the UK every year and spreads very easily from person to person. Outbreaks of the illness are therefore common in contained areas such as hospitals, schools and cruise ships.

After getting the illness immunity to the virus only lasts for fourteen weeks.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms usually start a day or two after a person is infected. They experience a sudden onset of nausea, followed by vomiting and watery diarrhoea. Other symptoms can include fever, stomach cramps and aching limbs.

Most people make a full recovery in 48 hours and there are no long term effects from the virus.

How can I treat the virus?

The best way to treat the virus is to let it run its course. Drink plenty of water to replace fluids lost by vomiting and diarrhoea. This is especially important for children and the elderly who are prone to dehydration.

Adults can use anti-diarrhoea medicine from chemists but these are not suitable for children.

Can I prevent myself from catching the virus?

It is not possible to prevent getting the virus but good hygiene can limit the spread of the infection. The virus can survive for several days in a contaminated area.

You should wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, particularly after going to the toilet or preparing food. Avoid eating raw, unwashed produce.

If you have the norovirus you should avoid direct contact with others for 48 hours after your symptoms have gone. You should avoid preparing food for others until at least 72 hours after the virus has gone.

If you have further concerns you can contact NHS Direct on 0845 4647