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What is norovirus?
Norovirus refers to a group of viruses that are a common cause of gastroenteritis (stomach bugs). Norovirus is also known as the 'winter vomiting virus' or 'Norwalk'. It is estimated that Norovirus affects between 600,000 and a million people in the UK each year.
How does norovirus spread?
The virus is easily transmitted from person to person. It can be transmitted by contact with an infected person; by consuming contaminated food or water or by contact with surfaces or objects which are contaminated by norovirus.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of norovirus infection usually begin around 12 to 48 hours after a person has become infected and start with the sudden onset of nausea followed by vomiting and diarrhoea. Some people may have a raised temperature, headaches and aching limbs. Most people make a full recovery within 1-2 days, however some people (usually the very young or elderly) may become very dehydrated and require hospital treatment.
Why does Norovirus often cause outbreaks?
Norovirus often causes outbreaks because it is easily spread from one person to another and the virus is able to survive in the environment for many days. Outbreaks usually tend to affect people who are in semi-closed environments and healthcare settings tend to be particularly affected by outbreaks of norovirus.
How can these outbreaks be stopped?
Outbreaks can be difficult to control because of how easily norovirus is transmitted from one person to another. Within hospital the infection prevention and control team will respond quickly to a suspected outbreak of norovirus including closing wards to new admissions and implementing strict hygiene measures. Every effort will be made to ensure that those who have been infected will be isolated from contact with other patients for at least 72 hours after their symptoms have ceased.
How is norovirus treated?
There is no specific treatment for norovirus apart from letting the illness run its course. It is important to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
If I'm suffering from norovirus, how can I prevent others from becoming infected?
Good hygiene is important in preventing others from becoming infected – this includes thorough hand washing before and after contact. If you suspect you have a norovirus It is important that you do not visit hospital until you have been clear of symptoms for 48 hours. Food preparation should also be avoided until 48 hours after the symptoms have subsided. There are no known long-term effects from norovirus.