Doctors in East Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen are advising members of the public to be on the lookout for symptoms of Norovirus and take sensible precautions in case of infection.
Norovirus, sometimes known as the ‘winter vomiting disease’ because it usually occurs during the winter months, often starts to appear in the autumn peaking during January. As we have seen reported in the news recently, it is already hitting and affecting a number of school children in Hyndburn. It is highly contagious and the most frequent cause of infectious gastroenteritis in England and Wales. Typical symptoms are vomiting and diarrhoea. The sickness and diarrhoea can be distressing and you can also feel unwell with a temperature, headache, aching limbs and stomach cramps. It can be very unpleasant while you have it. People suffering will feel very unwell initially but will usually improve quickly as the symptoms settle.
It is a highly infectious disease, affecting people of all ages, with symptoms usually lasting anywhere between a few hours to a couple of days. Most people do recover quickly.
Dr Chris Clayton, Clinical Chief Officer at NHS Blackburn with Darwen, said: “If someone suspects they have Norovirus they should ensure they do not visit hospitals, schools or care homes to reduce the risk of them passing it on to others. They should also avoid work, only returning after they have been free of diarrhoea and vomiting for at least 48 hours as during this time infectious viruses may still be present.
“It is likely that a number of people in the East Lancashire area will be affected by Norovirus during the coming winter and we would ask people to follow our advice to minimise its effects on themselves, their families and other people.”
Good hygiene is particularly important in preventing yourself or others from becoming infected.
Dr Phil Huxley, Chair of NHS East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group, added: “People should ensure that they thoroughly wash their hands after using the toilet, and ensure that any contaminated surfaces are thoroughly disinfected after an episode of illness. Food preparation should also be avoided until three days after symptoms have disappeared.
“Unfortunately there is no specific treatment for Norovirus apart from letting the illness run its course; therefore it is important to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration especially in the very young or elderly”.
People suffering do not usually need to consult their GP unless symptoms are very bad or continue beyond 48 hours.
The NHS Choices website (www.nhs.uk) can provide further advice. You can also call the NHS 111 helpline if symptoms do not quickly subside or you have additional concerns.