THOUGH we're now firmly in spring, cases of of the nasty "winter vomiting bug" remain high.
And there's good reason to scared of catching norovirus.
Symptoms from the highly-infectious bug can hit you quickly and make you feel pretty grim for a few days.
To make matters worse, norovirus cases are at their highest levels in over a decade.
Health chiefs warned people to keep an eye out for the symptoms ahead of the Easter holiday, which brought about increased social mixing.
And experts have found that the vomiting bug can be passed around through your favourite food, with outbreaks linked to restaurants.
But what are the symptoms of norovirus 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.
It commonly spreads through food or water that is contaminated during preparation or through contaminated surfaces and through close contact with a person who is infected.
Norovirus infection occurs most frequently in closed and crowded environments. Examples include hospitals, nursing homes, child care centers, schools and cruise ships.
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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.
The main symptoms are:
- Feeling sick (nausea)
- Being sick (vomiting)
You may also have:
- A high temperature
- A headache
- Aching arms and legs
How long do norovirus symptoms last?
Norovirus symptoms usually start between 12 and 48 hours of being infected with the bug.
Most people will start to feel better in two to three days.
The NHS says: "Stay off school or work until you have not been sick or had diarrhoea for at least 2 days. This is when you're most infectious.
"Do not visit hospitals or care homes during this time."
There are some unfortunate cases in which the virus can linger in the intestines for weeks – or even months.
And you should get advice by ringing 111 if you are still throwing up after two days, or having diarrhoea for more than seven days.
The same goes for children, and it is important to keep out for dehydration signs, especially if this isn't fixed with oral rehydration sachets.
Call 999 if you or your child's sick has blood in it, is green or yellow or looks like ground coffee.
Signs like a stiff neck, pain when looking at lights or a sudden severe headache or stomach ache also warrant calling 999, the NHS says.
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.
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.
Seek medical attention if symptoms are not improving after 24 hours, or if concerned.
This is especially important for young children and the elderly, as they are prone to rapid dehydration.
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