Norovirus (Winter Vomiting Virus ) - frequently asked questions
Q. What is winter vomiting virus?
It is in essence an extremely infectious stomach bug belonging to a group of viruses called Norovirus. This produces a gastro-enteritis illness.
It is dubbed the “winter vomiting virus” because it is more likely to cause illness during the winter months. These infections are, however, also common all year round.
Q. What are the symptoms?
Nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and some stomach cramping. Sometimes people additionally have a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and a general sense of tiredness. The illness is short lived and normally resolves over 24.48 hours.
Q. How is winter vomiting virus treated?
Currently, there is no antiviral medication that works against Norovirus and there is no vaccine to prevent infection. Norovirus infection cannot be treated with antibiotics. This is because antibiotics work to fight bacteria and not viruses.
Norovirus illness is usually brief in healthy individuals. When people are ill with vomiting and diarrhoea, they should drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Dehydration among young children, the elderly, the sick, can be common, and it is the most serious health effect that can result from Norovirus infection. By drinking oral rehydration fluids (ORF), juice, or water, people can reduce their chance of becoming dehydrated. Sports drinks do not replace the nutrients and minerals lost during this illness.
Q. Is it contagious?
It is extremely contagious.
Noroviruses are found in the stool or vomit of infected people. People can become infected with the virus in several ways, including:
eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with Norovirus;
touching surfaces or objects contaminated with Norovirus, and then placing their hand in their mouth;
having direct contact with another person who is infected and showing symptoms (for example, when caring for someone with illness, or sharing foods or eating utensils with someone who is ill).
People infected with Norovirus are contagious from the moment they begin feeling ill to at least 3 days after recovery. Some people may be contagious for as long as 2 weeks after recovery.
Therefore, it is particularly important for people to use good handwashing and other hygienic practices after they have recently recovered from Norovirus illness.
Q. What measures have West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust put in place to stop winter vomiting virus spreading?
The Trust follows stringent infection control measures including:
temporarily closing affected wards to new admissions
putting in place rapid response teams to give extra intensive cleaning to wards
cleaning affected areas with a new detergent/bleach agent to kill the virus
staff are wearing gloves and aprons to deal with those patients affected
during an outbreak it is essential that staff, patients and visitors use soap and water for hand hygiene as this is the only known way of preventing the spread
visiting should be restricted and visitors are asked not to visit if they or their family have sickness and/or diarrhoea.