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Norovirus

Norovirus prevention posters

Norovirus - frequently asked questions


What are noroviruses?

Noroviruses are a group of viruses that are the most common cause of gastroenteritis (stomach bugs) in England and Wales, affecting between 600,000 and a million people in the UK each year. Norovirus is now the name given to the group of viruses that used to be known as Norwalk virus or small round-structured viruses (SRSV).

 

How does norovirus spread?

The virus is easily transmitted from one person to another. It can be transmitted by contact with an infected person; by consuming contaminated food or water or by contact with contaminated surfaces or objects where it can survive for many days.

This ability to spread easily means it often causes outbreaks in semi-closed environments such as hospitals, care homes, and schools.

 

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of norovirus infection will begin around 12 to 48 hours after becoming infected and the symptoms will last for 12 to 60 hours. They will start with the sudden onset of nausea followed by projectile vomiting and watery 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, elderly or underlying medical condition) may become very dehydrated and may require hospital treatment.

 

How to identify someone with dehydration?

Symptoms of dehydration include passing little urine, a dry mouth, tongue and lips, sunken eyes, weakness, dizziness, headache. Some people may become irritable, confused or lethargic.

Infants and children may have fewer wet nappies or tears when crying. Their hands and feet may become cold, pale or mottled, and breathing can become rapid and shallow. If you think your child has these symptoms you should seek medical attention immediately.

 

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 you vomit, wait 5-10 minutes and then start drinking again, but more slowly, for example, a sip every 2-3 minutes.

 

Are there any long-term effects?

No, there are no long-term effects from norovirus.

 

Should I seek medical advice?

If you feel you require medical advice, call your General Practitioner, or NHS 111. Do not visit your GP, the Dudley Walk in Centre, or Accident and Emergency, unless for the reasons mentioned earlier, such as dehydration, or you feel it is absolutely necessary to do so.

 

If I’m suffering from norovirus, how can I prevent others from becoming infected?

There are many things you can do to prevent the spread of the infection.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly after going to the toilet or changing nappies. Also ensure you wash your hands before eating food. Dry properly after washing.
  • Don't share towels and flannels.
  • Don't prepare or serve food for others until at least 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhoea/vomiting.
  • If clothing or bedding is soiled, first remove any faeces into the toilet. Then wash in a separate wash at as high a temperature as the fabric will tolerate.
  • Regularly clean the toilets that you use with disinfectant. Wipe the flush handle, toilet seat, taps, surfaces and door handles with hot water and detergent at least once a day. If possible use a disposable cloth each time.
  • If you have a non urgent appointment at a hospital and are suffering from symptoms of norovirus telephone before attending.
  • If you think you are suffering from norovirus, do not visit relatives in hospital.
  • Stay off work, school, college, etc., until at least 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhoea or vomiting. Avoid contact with other people as far as possible during this time.

 

What can be done to prevent infection?

The most important thing you can do is wash your hands, and follow the steps above, to reduce the risk.

 

Where can I get further information?

Information on the infection can be found at:

NHS Choices

Public Health England