Norovirus is on the rise: what you need to know about the winter vomiting bug

Cases of norovirus, also known as the winter vomiting bug, are on the rise this year – just as many of us are doing everything we can to avoid getting sick.

According to statistics from Public Health England, there have been 1254 outbreaks of the norovirus since early July this year, compared with 1134 outbreaks in the same period since last year.

Norovirus is a debilitating illness which can occur at any time through the year but is more likely to strike during the winter months. The nasty symptoms can leave you curled up in bed, missing days of work or Christmas festivities. Not ideal.

Dr Kishwar Sultana, a GP at MedicSpot, tells Yahoo UK what to look out for.

What is norovirus?

According to Dr Sultana, norovirus is the leading cause of acute gastroenteritis – an intestinal infection or stomach flu – worldwide.

He says: "It is known as the 'winter vomiting bug' due to its prevalence in the winter and it causing vomiting and diarrhoea for those infected."

How do you avoid contracting the illness?

Hygiene is key to avoid the norovirus, explains Dr Sultana – and it turns out your pocket hand sanitiser won't cut it.

"Norovirus is not always preventable, but keeping good hygiene certainly helps to reduce your chances of catching the infection. This means washing your hands thoroughly with soapy water. Alcohol hand sanitisers are usually not as effective as warm, soapy water against these infections."

How do I know if I have norovirus?

So, despite your best efforts, you're feeling run down and think you may have the virus. Symptoms to look out for include nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting, says Dr. Sultana.

"These symptoms will usually appear within 12 to 48 hours after the first exposure to the virus. You might also experience a high temperature of over 38°C or above, a headache, and aching in your arms and legs."

If your symptoms appear to fit the bill, it's not the end of the world. While unpleasant, norovirus will generally pass after two days' rest at home. "Make sure to get plenty of rest, stay hydrated and eat when you feel able to," says Dr. Sultana.

"Ensure you are getting small amounts of fluids regularly. Sips clear fluids aiming for around one cup an hour. Flavoured or proprietary rehydration sachets will also work. Also, make sure you are passing a good amount of urine."

Also, don't be tempted to go into work until symptoms pass, as this will likely put your colleagues at risk.

Finally, Dr. Sultana advises on when to seek help from a medical professional for your condition.

"If you are not managing to get enough fluids in, and have not passed urine for 12 hours, or are feeling unwell, have blood loss; or have other illness such as diabetes or kidney disease in particular then do talk to a medical professional for further advice about your condition and medications."

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