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Norovirus cases may have hit 880,000


Almost 880,000 people could have been affected by an outbreak of the winter vomiting bug, health officials said.

The number of laboratory confirmed cases of norovirus is 83% higher than the same time last year, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) said.

So far this season there have been 3,046 confirmed cases of norovirus in England and Wales, but for every reported case there are likely to be a further 288 unreported sufferers, the HPA added.

Last season there were just 1,669 cases.

During the fortnight to December 16, there were 61 outbreaks in hospitals in England.

The bug has swept the country and has led to the closure of dozens of hospital wards.

It has also affected holidaymakers on two cruise ships.

Norovirus is highly contagious and can be transmitted through contact with an infected person or contaminated surfaces and objects. It is known to spread rapidly in closed environments such as hospitals, schools and nursing homes.

Symptoms include sudden vomiting, diarrhoea, or both, a temperature, headache and stomach cramps. The bug usually goes away within a few days.

Although people can suffer from norovirus at any time of the year, activity increases in the winter months, with most cases seen between January and March.

The HPA said that no two years of norovirus activity are alike.

John Harris, an expert in norovirus at the HPA, said: “The number of laboratory confirmed cases has risen again, following the drop in the number we reported last week. This is typical of the norovirus season where the number of laboratory reports fluctuates between October and April with the bulk of cases usually occurring between January and March.

“Norovirus is very contagious so we would urge anyone who thinks they may be unwell with norovirus to stay at home and stay away from hospitals and care homes.

“The infection is short-lived although it is very unpleasant while you are unwell. Most people will not need to go to see their doctor and will recover in a couple of days. It is important to take plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.”


Readers' comments (7)

  • I'd like to discuss recent proposals made by our Trust that staff will NOT be paid for the first 3 days of sickness, and after that will need a doctor's note. In today's economic climate is anyone seriously going to stay off work if they are not going to get paid. I know that if I could struggle in, regardless of what illness I had, then I would if the alternative was reduced pay and not being able to pay bills! A bit short-sighted or what?

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  • Perhaps your trust would prefer you to come in and spread something infectious around instead of staying at home and looking after yourself. In my trust, staff who are being 'managed' because of their sick record are so afraid of the consequences if they don't come to work that they come even when it is very obvious that they shouldn't be there.

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  • Anonymous | 19-Dec-2012 8:00 pm

    tragic. that is no way to promote good quality care or inspire confidence in patients or the public. healthcare organisations should be leading by example as well as exercising their duty of care to staff and patients alike.

    reminds me of a story I heard on LBC where a bus drive was been attacked and stabbed by some youths on his bus. He managed to call his centre and all they were concerned about and asked him was if he was able to get his bus back to the depot. To finish the story he then called emergency services and the operator responded by saying he wasn't being attacked as she he was talking to her. He was eventually taken to hospital, had serious injuries, lost a lot of blood and hasn't been able to work since. Employer-employee loyalty doesn't seem to count for much anymore and when the customer/client/patient gets good service doesn't seem to be an issue.

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  • ..Just returned from a cruise.. on the Independence of the Seas, which had en episode of...'Norovirus' on it the week before.
    For the first 4 days of the cruise,the staff were so professional, they ensured that each passenger, cleansed his/her hands every meal time, at meal times and after using the toilets, using anticeptic wipes and or electronc anticeptic spray machine situated all round the ship's decks.

    On the 4th day, satisfied there was no norovirus on board, they became more relaxed, and we were allowed to serve ourselves at the buffet. However, although the staff continued cleansing offering tissues at the restuarant areas, it became apparrent to me, that guests automatically stopped using the machines at the toilet areas and didn't wash their hands before leaving. The mind boggles.

    Moral: don't blame the cruise ship staff, the onus remains wholly with the guests
    Guests were not permitted to help themselves at the buffet, but were served by staff wearing gloves on their hands.

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  • Sorry about the repeated errors in my letters. I wish they provided an editing page before you 'submit'. Arrgh!

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  • Does anyone know why Trusts do not have a national (sensible and fair) policy on this issue? Where I work, they say, on the one hand, that if you have D&V you should remain at home until you have been free of symptoms for 48 hours. HOWEVER, they then say that staff will not be paid for the first 3 days of sick leave, and anything over 3 days needs a doctor's note. For most staff these days, the need for money is greater than their, and patients', health needs, so anyone who is not actually dying, will struggle in and pass on whatever illness they have to other staff and vulnerable patients. Happy New Year everyone!!

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  • there should be good financial incentives to keep nurses and other staff at home if they are infectious!

    Seriously, I met an acquaintance the other day who was so full of cold she could no even speak. I made the right noises of empathy and offered to go and shop for her when she told me she had been in to work - a cleaner in an old people's home! How good can that be?

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