GPs warn of winter vomiting bug outbreak

Updated: 
It's going to be a tough winter for GPs this year as official statistics show that cases of the winter vomiting bug, called norovirus, have been on the rise in recent weeks. A bulletin to the health service has warned that this usually signals the beginning of a national outbreak, and family doctors are urging those with minor illnesses to stay away.

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Figures from NHS Direct revealed that the proportion of calls regarding vomiting symptoms have risen above four per cent of all calls.

The virus, which causes violent vomiting and diahorrea, is usually resolved within 48 hours, but it can prove fatal in the vulnerable elderly or very young.

And other data from over 3,000 GPs suggested gastroenteritis was also above the level of this time last year.

Teamed with the current swine flu vaccination programme, it looks like being a busy winter for doctors.

Dr Michelle Drage, chairman of the London-wide Local Medical Committees, told the Telegraph: "It does not look like being a good winter healthwise. The advice to people is manage minor but uncomfortable illness at home and don't rush to the doctor with the very first symptom. That will enable us to manage the people that are acutely unwell."

Professor Steve Field, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, advised that good hygiene would help to combat both swine flu and norovirus.

"It is going to be very, very busy. The more we can do to keep patients out of the surgery and keep them at home, as well as preventing infection, the better.

"There will be areas that have both swine flu and norovirus at the same time. People need to be hypervigilent about hygiene.

"I would recommend that everyone carry an alcohol gel with them and get in the habit of using it regularly."