What are norovirus symptoms, how long does the vomiting bug last and how does it spread?

NOROVIRUS is a highly-infectious bug often referred to as the "winter vomiting bug" and cases are currently surging across the UK.

Covid-hit Britain is being dealt a new health blow – with the spread of another highly infectious bug which strikes fear into most parents.

But what are the symptoms and how long does it last? Here’s what you need to know about the unpleasant virus…

What is norovirus?

Norovirus is one of the most common stomach bugs in the UK and is also referred to as “the winter vomiting bug”, although it can affect people all year round.

It is very unpleasant but it usually clears itself up in a few days.

More than 150 outbreaks of norovirus have already been documented since May, report health chiefs.

This is about triple the number seen for the same period over the past five years.

Public Health England (PHE) is concerned as there are far more incidents reported to its experts than would be expected in summer.

Health bosses said that while young children have mainly been hit by the bug, there has been a rise in infections across all age groups.

What are the symptoms of norovirus? 

According to the NHS website, you are likely to have caught norovirus if you experience a sudden sick feeling, projectile vomiting and watery diarrhoea.

Other symptoms can include a slight fever, headaches, painful cramps and aching limbs.

How long do norovirus symptoms last?

Norovirus symptoms usually start between 12 and 48 hours of being infected with the bug.

For most healthy people symptoms generally last for around one to three days.

However, there are some unfortunate cases in which the virus can linger in the intestines for weeks – or even months.

How does norovirus spread?

The virus easily spreads around public places and is transmitted when a tiny particle of vomit or poo from an infected person gets into someone else’s mouth.

That sounds a bit gross and unlikely but it can happen – in particular when you touch a contaminated surface and then put your hand in your mouth – or if you eat food which has been contaminated.

You can also catch it if you are in close proximity to an infected person and they breathe on you.

How do you get rid of norovirus?

There is no cure but the symptoms do often pass after a couple of days.

If you think you have contracted it contact NHS direct but stay at home, as you won’t be offered any treatment in hospital and you could put others at risk by being there.

You can ease the symptoms by doing a few things:

  • Drink plenty of fluids and avoid getting dehydrated
  • Take paracetamol to ease aches and pains
  • Rest – a lot
  • Eat plain foods (if you can manage eating)
  • Rehydrate with rehydration salts which you can buy in a sachet
  • Adults can take antidiarrhoeal tablets

Norovirus can spread very quickly, so you should wash your hands regularly while you're ill.

You should also stay at home for at least 48 hours after the symptoms have cleared to avoid passing it on.

Prof Saheer Gharbia, deputy director of PHE's national infection service, said: "Norovirus has been at lower levels than normal throughout the pandemic with less opportunity to spread between people in the community.

"But as restrictions have eased we have seen an increase in cases across all age groups.

"Symptoms include sudden onset of nausea, projectile vomiting and diarrhoea, but can also include a high temperature, abdominal pain and aching limbs.

"Stay at home if you are experiencing norovirus symptoms.

"Do not return to work or send children to school or nursery until 48 hours after symptoms have cleared.

"As with Covid-19, hand washing is really important to help stop the spread of this bug.

"But remember, unlike for Covid-19 alcohol gels do NOT kill off norovirus so soap and water is best."

How long is the incubation period for norovirus?

After being exposed to the virus, you will usually start to notice symptoms between one and two days.

The symptoms don't last long, and you'll normally feel healthy again after a few days, but you're actually contagious for up to three days after you've recovered – and some people may even be contagious for two weeks.

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