IT’s one of the most common bugs in the UK and has already shut countless schools and hospitals this winter due to its highly contagious symptoms.
But shocking new figures have revealed just how dangerous norovirus can be.
Scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine have estimated that the illness is responsible for 200,000 deaths every year worldwide.
Experts say this is because the condition, also known as the “winter vomiting bug” is “notorious for spreading rapidly through densely populated spaces”.
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 to protect your family
There are currently no direct treatments for this intestinal virus.
And Dr Megan Baldridge, who led the study at Washington University, added: “Norovirus is especially dangerous in young children, older adults and people with compromised immune systems.”
With this in mind, here top doctors take us through the main ways you can protect yourself and your family from the contagious condition this winter…
1. Wash hands
Washing your hands regularly is the best way to keep you and your kids protected, according to Dr Sarah Jarvis, Clinical Director of Patient.info.
She tells us: “Wash, wash and wash again!
“Norovirus is spread via the ‘faecal oral route’, which is just as disgusting as it sounds.
What is the right way to wash your hands?
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
- Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them
“Germs passed out in an infected person’s poo can be picked up on someone else’s hands, and transferred into their mouths when they touch their mouths or via food.
“So wash your hands thoroughly after going to the loo, before you handle or eat food and after you empty a potty.”
2. Clean surfaces
With norovirus being highly contagious, it’s important to make sure all surfaces stay as clean as possible.
Dr Jarvis says: “Clean surfaces including toilet handles, taps and door handles regularly with disinfectant.
“And make sure you wash your hands if you’ve been in a public place like a bus or train, where lots of other people have touched surfaces.”
3. Steer clear of others
With norovirus being passed on through contact, Dr Daniel Atkinson, advises people to avoid close contact with other people who are sick.
Dr Atkinson,GP Clinical Lead at Treated.com, says: “Norovirus can be passed on through being in close proximity to others too, so try and be as vigilant as you can when out in public places too, or at things like school events.
Top tips for parents for protecting kids from winter bugs
1. Make sure kids wash their hands properly
This prevents the spread of bugs like Norovirus and Shigella, as well as the common cold.
2. Keep kids away from other poorly children
Colds and coughs are almost unavoidable so this is one solution to protect them.
3. Get kids the free NHS flu vaccine
All children from two years old to the end of primary school are now eligible for a free NHS flu vaccine
4. Wrap asthma sufferers up in a scarf
By wrapping a scarf loosely over your child’s now and mouth this helps prevent airways from becoming inflamed
5. Keep kids’ skin moisturised
This prevents eczema flare ups
6. Avoid woollen clothes
Opt for cotton clothes in the winter as wool can trigger eczema
“So that means avoiding close contact with other people who are sick, or coughing and sneezing a lot.
“If any of your own children are ill, it’s a good idea to do the rest of the school a favour and keep them at home until they’re better.”
4. Wash fruits & cook seafood thoroughly
Doctors advise carefully washing fruits and vegetables before preparing and eating them to prevent.
They also urge people to cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating them.
In particular, be aware that noroviruses are relatively resistant and can survive temperatures as high as 140°F and quick steaming processes that are often used for cooking shellfish.
Food that might be contaminated with norovirus should be thrown out.
Keep sick infants and children out of areas where food is being handled and prepared.
5. Wash laundry thoroughly
Doctors say you should wash laundry thoroughly to avoid the illness spreading.
In particular, if you or your kids have norovirus immediately remove and wash clothes or linens that may be contaminated with vomit or stool.
Handle soiled items carefully and wear rubber or disposable gloves while washing them.
Try to wash items of clothing with detergent at the maximum available cycle length and machine dry them if you can.
We revealed earlier this month that schools and hospital wards have been forced to close across the country after an outbreak of norovirus.
Schools in Yorkshire and Northern Ireland have had to shut this week while Southampton General Hospital confirmed it has closed wards.
Students from Howden School in Goole, East Yorks, were sent home on Monday and told to steer clear until Thursday after an outbreak of cases.
Another secondary school in nearby Bradford, was also shutdown for a deep clean after more than 15 per cent of its pupils and staff were struck down.
In Northern Ireland, the outbreak has caused pupils to miss exams and one primary school has cancelled its Christmas pantomime.
As many as 150 students called in sick at one secondary school alone last Thursday, it’s reported.
Around a quarter of the 360 pupils at Clandeboye Primary were off sick yesterday with the school closed today.