People who contract the winter vomiting bug are being asked to remain at home as the illness has already become rampant in some hospitals.
According to figures that have been released, there were 18 outbreaks in some hospital during last month, with about 200 patients and staff being affected.
These figures are not an increase on previous years, but officials have warned that it is unpredictable and extremely contagious.
Norovirus is a strain which causes gastroenteritis or stomach bugs. There is no treatment for the virus, but most sufferers should recover within 24 to 48 hours. However, for patients already ill in hospital, this bug can cause complications, hence it is important that those who suspect they have norovirus should not visit their GP or the hospital.
The virus is more common during the colder months, but can be caught all year round and is often caught when eating oysters as that is where it lives.
What is it?
Norovirus, also referred to as the winter vomiting bug, is one of the most common stomach bugs in Britain. It affects people of all ages and is extremely contagious.
The first sign is a sudden feeling of sickness, followed by watery diarrhoea and forceful vomiting. Other symptoms could include headaches, fever, aching legs and arms, and stomach cramps.
How does it spread?
The virus is extremely contagious and can be caught by touching object or surfaces which have been contaminated. If a person with the virus does not wash their hands prior to handling food, it can be passed onto others.
It spreads particularly fast in public places, such as hospitals, nursing homes and schools as it is able to survive for several days.
Actions if you catch it
There is no treatment for the virus, but there are steps you can take to ease the symptoms. You should drink plenty of water and drinks like Dioralyte sachets to ensure that you remain hydrated and take paracetamol to help with pain.
You should stay home because the virus is contagious and there is nothing your GP can do about it. During the period of illness, you should wash your hands frequently, avoid sharing flannels and towels, and disinfect all objects and surfaces which may be contaminated.
If your symptoms last for more than a few days, or if you already suffer from a serious illness, you should contact your doctor.
Most sufferers should recover within a few days. The main risk of the virus is dehydration, so you should drink lots of water to replace what is lost from diarrhoea and vomiting. The elderly and the young are at the highest risk of becoming dehydrated.
Severe dehydration can result in kidney failure and low blood pressure, and may be fatal in some cases. If you experience symptoms such as a rapid heartbeat, cold hands and feet, an inability to urinate or dry, wrinkled skin, you should seek medical help immediately.
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