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Norovirus cases on the rise in care homes and nurseries, health experts warn | UK News

Nurseries and care homes in England have reported a rising number of norovirus cases, as public health chiefs have urged people to take steps to limit the spread.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said norovirus cases have been rising as people mix, warning that “unusual or out of seasons increases” could be seen in the coming months.

If people have symptoms, they should stay at home and avoid elderly relatives, they said.

Norovirus, which is a winter vomiting bug, is highly infectious and transmissible through contact with infected individuals and contaminated surfaces.

The UKHSA said there has been an increase in the four weeks between the end of January and February, initially in childcare facilities and then in care homes – some 48% more outbreaks than usually seen in nurseries.

Care home outbreaks have increased from 24 in the week beginning 7 February to 40 the following week.

Outbreaks in care homes are still below the pre-pandemic levels, but the UKHSA said they are likely to rise in the coming weeks.

Increases in care home cases often come before a rise in hospitalisations, the government agency said.

‘Stay at home’ for 48 hours

Professor Saheer Gharbia, directorate of gastrointestinal pathogens and food safety at the UKHSA, said that while norovirus is “commonly known as the winter vomiting bug”, people mixing more has seen an increase in the number of outbreaks.

“Symptoms include sudden onset of nausea, projectile vomiting and diarrhoea but can also include a high temperature, abdominal pain and aching limbs,” Dr Gharbia said.

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“Stay at home if you are experiencing norovirus symptoms and do not return to work or send children to school or nursery until 48 hours after symptoms have cleared.

“Please avoid visiting elderly relatives if you are unwell – particularly if they are in a care home or hospital.

“As with COVID-19 and other infectious illnesses, hand washing 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.”

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