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What is Norovirus? 

Each year up to one million people across the country are affected by an unpleasant stomach bug called “Norovirus” that causes diarrhoea, vomiting and fever.

Norovirus is the most common cause of infectious gastroenteritis in England and Wales and can affect people of any age. It is very contagious, is spread from person-to-person and through food and water and is more likely to spread where people are in close proximity, such as in hospitals, schools and on cruise ships.

Whilst this condition, sometimes called "winter vomiting" virus (because of its tendency to affect people during colder months when people spend longer indoors) is an unpleasant experience, the infection tends to only last between 12 and 60 hours and most healthy people will just need to drink plenty of fluids and rest up.

However, people who are already ill such as patients in hospital can sometimes get quite poorly as the illness can interfere with the effectiveness of the medicines they are taking and also make them weak and dehydrated.

It is important therefore that if you are planning to visit someone in hospital you should carefully consider the following:

  • Do you feeel unwell? Have you, or any of your family, close work colleagues or friends experienced vomiting or diarrhoea in the past 72 hours. If so, please contact the ward for advice before visiting.
  • Do you really need to visit? Please don’t visit if you are unwell. Most hospital beds now have a bedside telephone and access to the internet so you can phone or email your relative/friend. However, if you feel you really can't postpone the trip, please contact the ward.
  • Have you washed your hands? It’s particularly important that you wash your hands thoroughly before and after visiting your friend/relative and especially after going to the toilet. You should always wash your hands when visiting, even if you are well and your hands look clean. For guidelines on the six stage hand washing technique click here…
  • If you are experiencing vomiting, diarrhoea and fever, drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest at home. During your illness try to avoid mixing with other people and try not to handle or prepare food for others. It is important to ensure that contaminated surfaces and areas are thoroughly disinfected after an episode of illness.

Generally there is no need for hospital treatment or a visit to the Accident and Emergency Department, but the elderly or very young can sometimes get more severe infection and they or anyone else who is concerned about their medical condition, should telephone their GP service or NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 for advice.



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