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Avoiding Norovirus

by Aylesbury Vale CCG – 11th November 2016
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As Winter approaches, the Aylesbury Vale Clinical Commissioning Group has issued the following information to help reduce the transmission of Norovirus in the local community

What is Norovirus?

Noroviruses are a group of viruses that are the most common cause of gastroenteritis (stomach bugs causing diarrhoea and vomiting). The illness is usually mild in nature and gets better without treatment but is very infectious.

How is it spread?

The virus is very easily spread from one person to another. It can be transmitted by contact with an infected person, by eating contaminated food or by contact with contaminated surfaces or objects.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms begin around 12 to 48 hours after becoming infected and will last for between 12 to 60 hours. It often starts with the sudden onset of nausea followed by vomiting and watery diarrhoea. Some people may have a raised temperature, headaches and aching limbs. Most people make a full recovery within 1 to 2 days, however some people (usually the very young or elderly) may become dehydrated and require treatment.

If I'm suffering from Norovirus, how can I prevent others from becoming infected?

The best way to prevent other people catching Norovirus is to avoid contact with others while you are unwell and until all your symptoms have stopped for at least 48 hours.

Do not visit hospitals, relatives in care homes or go to work or school during this time.

Good hygiene is very important.

  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water, particularly after going to the toilet or being sick. Don't rely on antibacterial or alcohol hand gels, as they do not kill the virus. You can see a video showing good hand-washing technique here.
  • Do not share towels and flannels.
  • Keep surfaces clean. Disinfect any surfaces or objects that could be contaminated with the virus. It is best to use a bleach-based household cleaner.
  • Wash any clothing or bedding that could have become contaminated with the virus. Wash the items separately and on a hot wash to ensure that the virus is killed.
  • Flush away any infected faeces or vomit in the toilet and clean the surrounding toilet area.
  • Avoid preparing food for others until you have recovered and not had any symptoms for 48 hours.

Why does Norovirus cause outbreaks?

It is easily spread from one person to another and the virus is able to survive in the environment for many days. Outbreaks tend to affect people who are in environments such as hospitals, nursing homes, nurseries, schools and cruise ships.

Can I visit friends/relatives in hospital?

Norovirus outbreaks can be very disruptive for the running of hospitals as well as being very uncomfortable for people who develop the illness. If you have symptoms of Norovirus, (or any tummy bug, or coughs and colds), please DO NOT visit friends or relatives who are patients in hospital. You may well infect them or others and cause an outbreak in the hospital.

Wait until you are well and it has been 48 hours since all your symptoms have stopped before visiting a hospital.

How is Norovirus treated?

There is no specific treatment for Norovirus. However it is very important to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Adults should normally aim to drink 2 litres (3½ pints) of fluid a day (unless advised by a doctor to drink less than this). In addition to this, an adult should drink 200ml of fluid for every time they have a loose stool. If a person is feeling sick it can be difficult to drink and the best approach is to try to drink small amounts frequently. Rehydration fluids such as Dioralyte can be very helpful particularly for someone who is not eating, as they contain salt and sugar replacements. These preparations are available at chemists without a prescription.

If your symptoms haven't improved after 3 days of illness, or if you experience sudden worsening of symptoms or pain contact NHS 111 or telephone your GP for advice. It is best to avoid going to your GP practice unless it is really necessary.

General advice on Norovirus is available from NHS Choices here.

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