What is the Norovirus, is it contagious, what are the symptoms of the vomiting bug, and how long does it last?
18th December 2018

But what exactly is the "vomiting bug", what should you look out for and how long does it last? Here’s all you need to know…

What is Norovirus?

Norovirus is one of the most common stomach bugs in the UK and is also referred to as “the winter vomiting bug”, although it can affect people all year round.

It is very unpleasant but it usually clears itself up in a few days.

The virus spreads easily spreads around public places and is transmitted when a tiny particle of vomit or poo from an infected person gets into someone else’s mouth.

That sounds a bit gross and unlikely but it can happen – in particular when you touch a contaminated surface and then put your hand in your mouth – or if you eat food which has been contaminated.

You can also catch it if you are in close proximity to an infected person and they breathe on you.

Last autumn, the public was urged to be on high alert for the contagious bug, ahead of an expected outbreak in UK schools and offices.

What are the symptoms of Norovirus? How long do they last?

According to the NHS website, you are likely to have caught Norovirus if you experience a sudden sick feeling, projectile vomiting and watery diarrhoea.

Other symptoms can include a slight fever, headaches, painful cramps and aching limbs.

Luckily, the symptoms generally only last for about two to three days.

What is the treatment for Norovirus?

There is no cure but the symptoms do often pass after a couple of days.

If you think you have contracted it contact NHS direct but stay at home, as you won’t be offered any treatment in hospital and you could put others at risk by being there.

You can ease the symptoms by doing a few things:

  • Drink plenty of fluids and avoid getting dehydrated
  • Take paracetamol to ease aches and pains
  • Rest – a lot
  • Eat plain foods (if you can manage eating)
  • Rehydrate with rehydration salts which you can buy in a sachet
  • Adults can take antidiarrhoeal tablets

Norovirus can spread very quickly, so you should wash your hands regularly while you're ill.

You should also stay at home for at least 48 hours after the symptoms have cleared to avoid passing it on.

Matthew Swindells, NHS England’s national director of operations and information, said: "It is important people remember the first port of call for minor conditions or non-emergency medical care should be the local chemist, the 111 helpline, or their GP practice."

How long is the incubation period for Norovirus?

After being exposed to the virus, you will usually start to notice symptoms between one and two days.

The symptoms don't last long, and you'll normally feel healthy again after a few days, but you're actually contagious for up to three days after you've recovered – and some people may even be contagious for two weeks.

Will there be an outbreak this year?

Over the summer, there were reports of a Norovirus outbreak, with many Brits suffering from the symptoms.

The outbreak emerged in the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Suffolk, Lincolnshire, Devon, Cornwall, North Wales and South Wales.

Parents claimed students at Westclyst and Broadclyst Primary Schools in Exeter were forced to carry sick buckets, with one parent revealing to The Mirror, it was like "something from a horror film".

Public Health England has now been called upon to help manage the outbreak.

Speaking to the Sun Online, Broadclyst Community Primary School headteacher Jonathan Bishop said: "We are having extra deep cleans during the day and at the end of the day, which includes things like cleaning door handles.

"The school nurse is also going into classes telling children about the importance of handwashing."

The bug is set to get worse over the winter.

Where have there been other outbreaks of Norovirus?

In 2017 London was hit by serious sickness bug which has seen several competitors and officials fall ill with gastroenteritis.

And with winter upon us, health experts have warned Brits to expect another bout of the unpleasant virus.

Cases of gastroenteritis in adults are usually caused by Norovirus or bacterial food poisoning.

It was also announced that the bug may sweep schools and offices this winter.

In early January 2018 it was confirmed that hospitals across the North East had imposed visitor restrictions as a result of a Norovirus outbreak.

They were first imposed around a week before Christmas.

During the second week of January, it was announced that cases had risen by a third in just a week.

Across England, 944 hospital beds were closed due to the winter vomiting bug, up 29 per cent from 731 the week before.

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