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Think NORO and help stop it spreading

With reports of Norovirus outbreaks increasing across the South West, Public Health England and NHS England are urging people to follow four simple steps and just think NORO:

  • No visits to hospitals, care homes and GP surgeries
  • Once you're symptom-free for 48 hours, you’re safe
  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and warm water
  • Only hand-washing will prevent spread of Norovirus

Norovirus is a highly contagious stomach bug that causes diarrhoea and vomiting. Most people will recover within a few days and can return to work or school, but if Norovirus is introduced unintentionally into places where lots of people congregate, such as schools, nurseries, hospitals and care homes, the illness can spread incredibly quickly and affect vulnerable people.

In some situations, Norovirus outbreaks can lead to ward or school and nursery closures. This can have a knock-on effect of disrupting peoples’ jobs, routines or putting the health of p​eople with underlying conditions at risk. That is why it is crucial that people wait until they have been symptom-free for at least 48 hours before they return to work or school or visit hospitals and care home​s.

The infection can live on hard surfaces for hours and spreads very quickly through environments where lots of people are mingling closely. The best way to protect yourself and others from catching this unpleasant sickness bug is simply to wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap, and to keep the environment you live and work in clean.

Alcohol or antibacterial hand sanitisers are a popular choice for people wanting to protect themselves from the bugs that circulate during winter, but hand sanitisers are not an effective protection against Norovirus.

Fiona Neely, Consultant in Communicable Diseases for Public Health England South West, said: “Levels of norovirus are increasing in line with expected levels so far this winter but many schools, nurseries, hospitals and care homes across the south west have reported outbreaks in recent weeks.

“We work closely with these institutions throughout the year to ensure that they have the right information and guidance to help prevent the spread of infection. But it’s important for everyone to remember that we all have a role to play in reducing the spread of winter bugs. Norovirus is unusual in that hand sanitisers don’t kill the virus and so hand washing is the best way to stop this nasty infection before it passes on to others.

“The symptoms of norovirus include suddenly feeling sick, projectile vomiting, and watery diarrhoea. Some people also have a slight fever, headaches, painful stomach cramps and aching limbs. The symptoms appear one to two days after you become infected and typically last for up to 2 or 3 days.

“Anyone who has been infected should stay off work or school for 48 hours after their symptoms have ceased.”

Dr Caroline Gamlin, Medical Director for NHS England in the South West, said: “We know there is real pressure on the NHS this winter, so if you have any vomiting, diarrhoea or respiratory symptoms please don’t visit relatives and friends in hospital or care homes. The impact can be huge if you spread norovirus or flu – not just on vulnerable patients who are already unwell but on the availability of beds for other people. So please do your bit this winter to help keep others safe.”​