Norovirus warning as schools go back – and 5 ways to PREVENT it

KIDS are set to get back into the classroom this week after a long summer break.

As children mingle once more, experts have warned parents to keep an eye out for the norovirus – with cases expected to be higher than previous years.

During the summer months, Public Health England (PHE) reported an increase in cases of the norovirus.

In the latest PHE report, which is dated up to August 1, the experts state that cases have been steadily increasing and have mainly been seen in educational settings, with most cases having been reported in nurseries.

The experts state that cases are 43 per cent higher than the last five seasons before Covid-19 was circulating.

"It is possible that unusual or out of season increases in norovirus activity could be seen in the coming months", they added.

In July it was reported that there had been more than 150 outbreaks of the virus – triple the amount seen over the last five years.

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

Yet it's a bug which normally strikes during the winter months.

Restrictions in place due to Covid have now been lifted and people have been mixing more frequently – which is only set to go up when kids go back to school.

Kids will be mixing with even more children and parents will also be mingling at the school gates.

Most infections of the norovirus occur through contact with infected people or contaminated surfaces, or through ingesting contaminated food and water.

Speaking to The Sun, Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and Clinical Director of explained that norovirus is the most common virus causing gastroenteritis in adults in the UK, but it’s also really common among kids.

She added: "That’s why there’s often a surge in cases when schools reopen.

"If you’re infected, it can be spread on your hands after you go to the loo. The virus can then be passed on by close contact or contaminated food.

"For obvious reasons, then, hand washing is absolutely key. However, obviously it’s not always easy to get kids to wash their hands thoroughly every time they go to the loo."

But how can you prevent the bug?

1. Hand hygiene

Prof Saheer Gharbia, deputy director of PHE's national infection service said : "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."

2. Keep it clean

Norovirus is easily transmitted through contact with infected people or contaminated surfaces.

Prevention is through strict hygiene measures.

Making sure you clean shared surfaces frequently and disinfect any potentially contaminated surfaces or objects is key.

You should also wash contaminated clothing or bedding using detergent at a high temperature (60C).

Norovirus: What are the symptoms?

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

The main symptoms are:

  • Feeling sick (nausea)
  • Diarrhoea
  • Being sick (vomiting)

You may also have:

  • A high temperature
  • A headache
  • Aching arms and legs

3. Pay attention

As more of us are now going out to eat following the relaxation of coronavirus restrictions, it's important to pay attention to our surroundings.

For example if you go to an establishment where food is being handled without gloves then you might want to go somewhere else.

An easy way to check the cleanliness of an establishment is to look up it's food hygiene rating.

This is determined by the Food Standards Authority (FSA) and reflects the standards of food hygiene found on the date of the inspection by the local authority.

The food hygiene rating is not a guide to food quality, the FSA said.

4. Food safety

If you're at home you can also make sure you're not contaminating your food.

Make sure all surfaces are clean before preparing food and also make sure all fruit and vegetables have been washed – especially ones that aren't in packaging as people may have already touched them in the supermarket.

You can use water to remove dirt, but there are also fruit and vegetable washes that have been specifically designed to clean your food – which don't leave the bitter taste which can be left if you use other household products.

Products such as Veggie Wash are made with 100 per cent safe and natural ingredients, so that water-proof pesticides, microbes and grime can be removed from produce.

This helps effectively remove soil, agricultural chemicals and waxes which makes food safer for our bodies to digest, unlike when washing with water alone. 

5. Hands, face, space

It's clear that the coronavirus has taught many people to take a closer look at their personal hygiene and the way they behave around others.

To get the norovirus you have to ingest it.

Aside from getting the virus through the foods we eat – we could also get it by touching a contaminated surface and then touching our mouth and face.

You should make a conscious effort to not touch your face as this could lead to you becoming infected.

What to do if you already have the virus?

People usually recover on their own within one to three days but there are some unfortunate cases in which the virus can linger in the intestines for weeks – or even months.

The most important thing is to rest and have lots of fluids to avoid dehydration, advises the NHS.

The average incubation period for norovirus-associated gastroenteritis is 12 to 48 hours, with a median period of about 33 hours.

Usual symptoms are sudden vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhoea. It normally goes away in about two days, says the NHS.

Dr Sarah added: "In addition, people who’ve had a tummy bug should stay off work/school/nursery until at least 2 days after they stop vomiting or having diarrhoea."

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