There has been an outbreak of the Norovirus in Northern Ireland, but what exactly is it and what should you do if you think you have it?
Norovirus, better known as the winter vomiting bug, is the most common stomach bug in the UK, affecting people of all ages.
The virus, which is highly contagious, causes vomiting and diahhoea. As there is no specific cure, you have to let it run its course, but it should not last more than a couple of days. Some people may also have:
- a raised temperature (over 38C/100.4F)
- stomach cramps
- aching limbs
Symptoms usually appear one to two days after you become infected but they can start sooner. Most people make a full recovery within a couple of days.
Apart from the risk of dehydration, the illness is not generally dangerous and there are usually no long-lasting effects from having norovirus. However, it can be pretty unpleasant while you have it. If you get norovirus, make sure you drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehyadration and practise good hygiene to help prevent it from spreading.
Noroviruses are a group of viruses that are the most common cause of stomach bugs in the UK. They are also known as small round structured viruses (SRSV) or Norwalk-like viruses.
Between 600,000 and one million people in the UK catch norovirus every year. You may have heard of it as the “winter vomiting bug” because the illness is more common in winter. However, the virus can be caught at any time of the year.
What should I do?
If you have norovirus, the following steps should help ease your symptoms:
- Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
- If you feel like eating, eat foods that are easy to digest.
- Stay at home, norovirus is contagious.
- Contact your GP to seek advice if your symptoms last longer than a few days or if you already have a serious illness.
Extra care should be taken to prevent babies and small children who are vomiting or have diarrhoea from dehydrating, by giving them plenty of fluids. Babies and young children can still drink milk.
The virus is easily spread by contact with an infected person, especially through their hands. You can also catch it through contaminated food or drink or by touching contaminated surfaces or objects.
The following measures should help prevent the virus from spreading further:
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Do not share towels and flannels.
- Disinfect any surfaces that an infected person has touched.
If you are worried that you are becoming dehydrated, your doctor or pharmacist may advise you to take rehydration drinks.
You can buy sachets of rehydration salts from your pharmacy and add them to water. They provide the correct balance of water, salt and sugar for your body.