The NHS is warning of the sharp rise in norovirus cases this year and the impact it is having on hospitals and other services.

Public Health England (PHE) statistics suggest norovirus rates are 28% higher than they usually are at this time of year forcing schools and hospital beds to close across parts of the country.

They are therefore urging those who catch the virus not to go back to work, school or nursery until at least 48 hours after symptoms pass, to avoid passing it on to others.

The NHS is responding by launching a new social media campaign to help people avoid catching the bug if possible, and to recognise and deal with the symptoms of norovirus at home. Patients are also being encouraged to seek help from the NHS 111 phone and online service rather than going to hospital or their GP where they risk infecting others.

PHE are encouraging people to think NORO:

  • N - No visits to hospitals, care homes or GP surgeries if you are suffering from symptoms of norovirus.

  • O - Once you've been symptom-free for at least 48 hours, you're safe to return to work, school or visit hospitals and care homes.

  • R - Regularly wash your hands with soap and warm water, especially after using the toilet, and before eating or preparing food.

  • O - Only hand-washing will prevent spread of norovirus - alcohol hand gels DON'T kill the virus.

Dr Helen Carter, Deputy Director at PHE, said:

"Norovirus is very unpleasant and highly infectious. Do not gift this, this Christmas. It causes diarrhoea and vomiting, and the bug can live on hard surfaces such as kitchen tops for hours.”

"It spreads very quickly in places where people mix together in close proximity, such as schools, nurseries, care homes and hospitals.”

"If you are unfortunate enough to catch norovirus you must stay away from hospitals and care homes until you are symptom free for at least 48 hours as norovirus can seriously affect vulnerable patients. Most people will make a full recovery fairly quickly, but it is important to drink plenty of fluids during that time to prevent dehydration especially in the very young, and elderly.”

Last reviewed 3 January 2020