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Make sure you practice good hand hygiene to avoid the nasty but common winter bug Norovirus.

That’s the advice from Public Health England, which noted a rise in Norovirus infections in the run-up to Christmas, with more cases reported than in previous winters over the past five years.

Norovirus is a very common winter bug which causes unpleasant – but usually short-lived – vomiting and diarrhea, usually lasting one to two days. It is the most common stomach bug in the UK, affecting people of all ages. It is also highly contagious and easily spread in settings where people are in close contact with each other, such as hospitals, workplaces, schools and care homes.

If you have the Norovirus bug you should stay away from places where it could be spread to other people, and avoid preparing food for anyone else. Public Health England (PHE) stressed that although the number of recorded cases of Norovirus was slightly higher (14%) this year than the average number for the past five winter seasons, it was common for this time of year and not unexpected.

Nick Finn, PHE’s National Infection Service deputy director, said: “Cases of this infection are beginning to increase, although they are still at levels that we would expect to see around this time of year, which is traditionally the norovirus winter vomiting season.

“Most people will make a full recovery within one to two days, but it is important to drink plenty of fluids during that time to prevent dehydration, especially in the very young or elderly.”

He added: “If people have diarrhoea and vomiting they should not prepare food for others and we advise that they should avoid visiting GP surgeries, care homes and hospitals if they have symptoms. If anyone is concerned they should contact NHS 111 or talk to their GP by phone.

“One of the best ways to protect against norovirus and to help prevent infection is by practising good hygiene. This includes thorough hand washing after using the toilet and before eating or preparing foods.”

Norovirus is transmitted by contact with hands or surfaces that the virus has landed on from an infected person. All contaminated surfaces should be thoroughly disinfected after any episode of illness. Food preparation should also be avoided by those who have been ill until at least 48 hours after symptoms have disappeared.

The symptoms of norovirus are very distinctive – people often report a sudden onset of nausea followed by projectile vomiting and watery diarrhoea. People infected will usually recover within 48 hours without serious or long-term health effects.

However, the effects of norovirus could be more serious for people with an underlying health problem and it should be taken seriously, especially if it goes on for longer than two days. People with mobility problems may want to stay nearer than usual to toilet facilities as the urge to go can be very sudden and compelling during an outbreak of Norovirus.

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