Health officials are reminding Kent residents of some simple steps they can take to beat the Norovirus bug this winter.
Norovirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis in England and Wales; it can affect people of any age and is more prevalent during colder months.
The symptoms begin around 12 to 72 hours after the patient picks up the infection and can usually last for 12 to 60 hours, but sometimes longer. “Whilst this condition, sometimes called ‘Winter vomiting disease’ or ‘Winter vomiting bug,’ is an unpleasant experience, the infection tends to be short lived and most people will just need to drink plenty of fluids and take plenty of rest,” explains KCC Director of Public Health, Andrew Scott-Clark.
He added: “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.”
Most people start with feeling nauseous, often followed by actually being sick and the vomiting is frequently projectile. Many patients will also get watery diarrhoea. Some people will have a raised temperature, headaches and aching limbs or flu like symptoms. Most people make a full recovery within 1-2 days, but some people – usually the very young or elderly – may become very dehydrated and require medical treatment.
James Thallon, NHS England Medical Director, said: “Norovirus is very contagious, is spread mainly from person to person and occasionally through food preparation, and is more likely to spread where people are in close proximity. Public places like hospitals, schools and offices are susceptible to outbreaks and people should stay at home until they are free of the symptoms – as it is a virus, it cannot be treated with antibiotics so do not go to your doctor. If you are concerned then call NHS 111 first.”
Dr Elizabeth Lunt, Chair of NHS Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “Washing your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water is simple and takes about 15 seconds – but it’s the best defence against norovirus. There’s no specific cure, so you have to let it run its course. It’s usually mild and shouldn’t last more than a couple of days. If you do become ill, don’t visit elderly relatives or people in hospital or residential homes until you’ve been symptom-free for more than 48 hours.”
How can norovirus be prevented?
• Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water – particularly after going to the toilet, before preparing or eating food, and after changing a baby’s nappy. (Alcohol gels are not effective against this particular virus).
• Do not use dirty cutlery.
• Do not allow raw food to come into contact with cooked food.
• Ensure all food is thoroughly cooked, especially meat and shellfish
• Avoid contact with anyone suffering from the virus for two to three days after they are completely free of symptoms
Norovirus is highly contagious and can be contracted in a number of ways:
• Direct contact with people who have the virus
• Touching contaminated objects
• Touching dirty or unwashed objects
• Raw or undercooked food, especially meat and shellfish
The NHS in Kent has a free web app to help you find the right treatment, especially when you are not sure what to do or who to contact. Health Help Now lists common symptoms and helps you find the best place for treatment for them in Kent. It shows the nearest services, whether they are open or closed, and provides a map of their location and directions. Health Help Now also offers reliable health advice and links to other useful websites. Available at www.healthhelpnow-nhs.net, it works on smartphones, tablets, and computers.
For more info on the Norovirus go to hhttp://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Norovirus/Pages/Introduction.aspx