Cases of winter vomiting bug up 42% in a week as more hospitals are forced to close their doors
Cases of norovirus up 83% on this time last yearHospital outbreaks also doubled compared to last yearCold weather suggested as reason for worst start to the norovirus season on record Up to 880,000 people could have been affected

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UPDATED:

15:02 GMT, 18 December 2012

Norovirus is continuing to wreak havoc across the country, with the number of people affected almost doubling in the space of a week.

Figures released today from the from the Health Protection Agency show there were 337 confirmed laboratory reports of norovirus in the week ending December 9 and 236 for the week ending 2 December – a rise of 42 per cent.

The number of confirmed cases – where samples have been checked in the lab – since is 83 per cent higher than this time last year, rising from 1,669 to 3,046 this season.

Cases of norovirus are up 83% on this time last year

Cases of norovirus are up 83% on this time last year

But this figure is likely to be only a fraction of the true total as most sufferers do not see their GP. Officials at the HPA estimate that for every confirmed case there are another 288 in the community.

As a result, it's thought almost 880,000 people could have been affected.

Hospital outbreaks are also double what they were this time last year. The HPA figures there were 61 hospital outbreaks during the last two weeks up to December 16. In same fortnight in the previous year there were 35.

The huge early outbreak is thought to
represent the worst start to the norovirus season on record, with some
experts blaming particularly frigid November temperatures for the
staggering numbers of cases.

With norovirus being so contagious, hospitals around the country are battling to keep it under control.

Four wards at Telford’s Princess Royal
Hospital have been closed today after an outbreak of the winter
vomiting bug, while Jersey's General Hospital has cancelled a number of
operations after the bug struck.

IF YOU SUSPECT YOU HAVE NOROVIRUS…

The Health Protection Agency advises the following measures:

Do NOT visit your GP surgery or local A&E Unit. Norovirus infection is a self-limiting illness and you will recover naturally without treatment. It is, however, important to take plenty of drinks to replace lost fluids.

Use NHS Direct's new diarrhoea and vomiting online health and symptom checker, to get advice on how to manage your symptoms at home or help to access the most appropriate health service visit the NHS Direct website:
ww.nhsdirect.nhs.uk/CheckSymptoms/SATs/DandV5AndOver.aspx

Wash hands thoroughly and regularly at all times, but particularly after using the toilet and before eating.

Do not visit friends or relatives in hospitals or residential care homes as there is a real risk that you would introduce the infection, putting vulnerable people at risk.

A ward is also closed at Dundee's Ninewells hospital following an outbreak.

At the Royal Bolton Hospital, people
are being asked not to take children to visit sick relatives in the
hospital after cases of the bug were confirmed. Planned visits to the
children's ward from Bolton Wanderers players have also been cancelled.

Visiting restrictions are also in place at Leominster Community Hospital

Last week, Birmingham's City Hospital
announced it was banning visitors, after an outbreak of the bug forced
the closure of four wards.

Another major hospital has took to
Twitter, pleading with anyone who has recently had the bug – or suspects
they may be infected – to stay away.

Doncaster & Bassetlaw Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust tweeted: 'Please, please, please don't visit
hospital if you've had vomiting or diarrhoea tummy bug in last 48 hours
(2 days)…!'

Four wards at Telford's Princess Royal Hospital have been closed today after an outbreak of the winter vomiting bug

Four wards at Telford's Princess Royal Hospital have been closed after an outbreak of the winter vomiting bug

Norovirus is highly contagious and can be transmitted by contact with an infected person, by contact with contaminated surfaces or objects or by consuming contaminated food or water. The virus spreads rapidly in closed environments such as hospitals, schools and care homes.

Symptoms of norovirus include a sudden onset of vomiting and/or diarrhoea. Some people may have a temperature, headache and stomach cramps. The illness usually resolves in one or two days and there are no long-term effects.

John Harris, an expert in norovirus at the HPA said: 'The number of laboratory confirmed cases has risen again, following the drop in the number we reported last week.

'This is typical of the norovirus season where the number of laboratory reports fluctuates between October and April with the bulk of cases usually occurring between January and March.'

VIDEO: What is Norovirus, and how to avoid it

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