Despite a rise in COVID-19 cases, the UK has removed most restrictions in the country beginning July 19. And now the spread of another viral disease has been reported. The Public Health England (PHE) recently issued a warning for an outbreak of Norovirus in the country. In the past five weeks, cases of Norovirus have shot up to 154, a 3x increase over the same period in the last five years.
What is Norovirus?
Norovirus is an extremely contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhoea in its victims and can spread across people of all ages. Sometimes called the "winter vomiting bug" or stomach flu or stomach bug, it is not related to other viruses that cause the flu.
The virus has a short incubation period of just 24-48 hours, after which patients begin to suffer from stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhoea. While most patients recover completely without any medical treatment within 1-3 days, some vulnerable demographics like the elderly, infants, and people with pre-existing conditions need urgent medical care to treat the resulting dehydration.
How Does it Spread?
The virus spreads through tiny particles that are present in the faeces and vomit of infected individuals. These microscopic particles can then contaminate food, water, and surfaces and can spread to other individuals. Norovirus spreads easily because only a tiny amount of particles is needed to infect an individual.
According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an infected individual may shed billions of viral particles over the course of their illness. Even though the illness only lasts for days, individuals can still spread viral particles for weeks afterwards.
Due to its nature, the virus usually spreads in close confines like hospitals, nursing homes, child-care centres, schools and cruise ships.
Much like other viral diseases, some individuals may be infected by the virus but do not show any signs or symptoms of illness. These asymptomatic individuals can still infect others.
Diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea and stomach pain are common symptoms of the disease while fever, body ache and headaches are also seen sometimes.
There is no specific medicine to treat Norovirus. However, patients should increase their fluid intake in the form of soups, juices, oral rehydration solutions, electrolytes and water to stave off dehydration.
How to Prevent?
Like most other contagious diseases, proper hygiene is essential to prevent infection. Washing your hands with soap before eating or handling food, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and maintaining proper hygiene when sick can stop the spread of the disease.
(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)