How to repel the dreaded winter vomiting bug, the norovirus, as number of cases soarMore than 800,000 cases reported since the summerThe figures are up 83 per cent on last year



00:55 GMT, 23 December 2012

There is a huge number of cases of norovirus, or winter vomiting bug, this year.

More than 800,000 cases have been confirmed since the summer, an 83 per cent increase on the same period last year.

The real figure is likely to be much higher given that many cases are not reported.

Preventative measures: The norovirus is easily spread through contaminated hands and surfaces so hygiene is key

Preventative measures: The norovirus is easily spread through contaminated hands and surfaces so hygiene is key

How can the spread of the infection be contained

The infection spreads easily from person to person through contaminated hands and surfaces, so hygiene is critical. It is particularly crucial for children and those handling food.

Those who have had the infection must remain isolated for 48 hours after recovery to prevent others being infected. We have already seen hospital wards and schools closed after outbreaks. This is an effort to contain the virus and curb a potentially larger epidemic.

Why does it happen every year

Norovirus is no different from other viruses that circulate at this time of year, but it is incredibly infectious.

It is the UK’s most common cause of gastroenteritis, and spreads easily when everyone is cooped up inside during the winter.

One problem is that people do not develop long-lasting immunity – you are protected for only a few months, so next winter you can easily get it again.

Is it a serious illness

For most people, absolutely not, as it lasts for only two or three days and causes vomiting, some diarrhoea, fever and malaise.

Most people recover with no medical intervention. But for babies and the elderly, dehydration is the problem: keeping up fluid intake can be difficult, and occasionally a stay in hospital will be necessary.

What’s the best treatment if you’re otherwise healthy

Rest and isolation. Sip small amounts of water or suck ice cubes for steady fluid intake. Take the anti-sickness medicine domperidone, which you can buy over the counter, and control fever with paracetamol.

Do I need to contact my GP

Only if there is any sign of dehydration. For sick children, speak to the doctor about medicine that can be prescribed for severe vomiting, and paracetamol suppositories to control a temperature if oral medicine is not tolerated.