Wednesday 21 February 2024
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Norovirus: Highest number of cases in a decade and sharp increase in care home cases

Latest national UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) surveillance data shows that laboratory reports of norovirus are more than double the 5-season average prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) data released shows a sharp increase in reports of confirmed cases of norovirus – the most common infectious cause of vomiting and diarrhoea.

Reporting has increased across all age groups, most notably in those aged 65 years and over.

While the majority of outbreaks caused by norovirus continue to be reported in care home settings, outbreaks in hospitals are also increasing but remain below the 5-season average.

Outbreaks reported in care home settings increased from 47 in the week commencing 6 February 2023 to 54 in the week commencing 13 February 2023, this being the highest number of outbreaks reported in a week so far this season.

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In response to the increase in cases, UKHSA is reminding the public of the actions they can take to reduce the spread of norovirus.

Norovirus is highly infectious and is easily spread through contact with someone with the infection or with contaminated surfaces.

One of the best ways to prevent the spread of norovirus is by regularly washing hands with soap and warm water especially after using the toilet or an episode of illness and before eating or preparing food.

Most people will make a full recovery within 2 to 3 days, but it is important to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, especially for the very young, elderly or those with weakened immune systems who are more at risk.

Dr Lesley Larkin, Surveillance Lead, Gastrointestinal Infections and Food Safety (One Health) Division at UKHSA, said:

“Norovirus levels are currently the highest we have seen at this time of year in over a decade.

“Most reported cases are in the over 65s and we’re also seeing an increase in reported outbreaks, particularly in care home settings.

“Please stay at home if you are experiencing norovirus symptoms and don’t return to work (particularly if you work with vulnerable people or food) or send sick children to school or nursery until 48 hours after symptoms have cleared.

“If you have a loved one in a care home or hospital, please avoid visiting until 48 hours after symptoms have cleared.

“Regular hand washing is really important to help stop the spread of this bug, but remember, alcohol gels do not kill off norovirus so washing with soap and warm water is best.”

Follow our guidance below on how to reduce the spread of norovirus.

The NHS website has information on symptoms, how to help yourself feel better at home, and when to seek medical attention.

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