Public Health England (PHE) today reported an unexpected rise in norovirus cases, warning that the easing of lockdown measures may cause an out-of-season increase in cases.
PHE said there had been an uptick in outbreaks in recent weeks to levels higher than expected in summer months.
Cases of the winter bug mostly stemmed from educational settings, such as nursery and childcare facilities.
Case numbers for norovirus, which causes vomiting and diarrhoea, are now back to pre-pandemic levels across all age groups.
PHE issued the following advice to reduce the spread of the virus:
“Stay at home if you are experiencing norovirus symptoms. Do not return to work or send children to school until 48 hours after symptoms have cleared. Also avoid visiting elderly or poorly relatives, particularly if they are in hospital.
“Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water. Alcohol hand gels don’t kill norovirus.
“When an infected person vomits, the droplets contaminate the surrounding surfaces. A bleach-based household cleaner or a combination of bleach and hot water should be used to disinfect potentially contaminated household surfaces and commonly used objects such as toilets, taps, telephones, door handles and kitchen surfaces.
“If you are ill, avoid cooking and helping prepare meals for others until 48 hours after symptoms have stopped, as norovirus can be spread through food contaminated by the virus when food is handled by symptomatic people or infected individuals.
“Wash any contaminated clothing or bedding using detergent and at 60°C, and if possible, wear disposable gloves to handle contaminated items.”
Professor Saheer Gharbia, Deputy Director, National Infection Service, PHE, said that “Norovirus, commonly known as the winter vomiting bug, has been at lower levels than normal throughout the pandemic with less opportunity to spread between people in the community but as restrictions have eased we have seen an increase in cases across all age groups.
Symptoms include sudden onset of nausea, projectile vomiting and diarrhoea but can also include a high temperature, abdominal pain and aching limbs.
“As with COVID-19, handwashing is really important to help stop the spread of this bug, but remember, unlike for COVID-19 alcohol gels do not kill off norovirus so soap and water is best,” Gharbia said.