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Norovirus advice from The Health Protection Agency

Norovirus advice from The Health Protection Agency

8 January 2014

Norovirus is the most common cause of infectious gastroenteritis (diarrhoea and vomiting) in England and Wales. The Illness is generally mild and people usually recover fully within 2-3 days; there are no long term effects that result from being infected.  Infections can occur at any age because immunity is not long lasting.



The disease was historically known as 'winter vomiting disease' due to its seasonality and typical symptoms. The disease is more prominent during the winter months but infections can occur at any time of the year. It is also known as small round structured virus (SRSV) or Norwalk-like virus.


Outbreaks of norovirus gastroenteritis are common in semi-closed environments such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools and cruise ships.


Norovirus is highly infectious. It is vital that anyone who is feeling unwell with gastrointestinal symptoms, vomiting and or diarrhoea, should not visit hospitals or their GP because this increases the risk of spreading the infection to patients and staff. However, if symptoms persist for more than three or four days, or those who already have a serious illness, then it is advised that medical attention is sought, through contacting your G.P.


Particular attention to good hygiene measures should be observed during outbreaks. It is very important to wash your hands with soap and water, particularly after contact with someone who is ill and after using the toilet, especially if you are suffering from symptoms.


Thorough cleaning of hard surfaces with detergent followed by disinfection with a bleach solution, paying particular attention to the toilet and toilet area and cleaning up vomit and the surrounding area quickly will help to reduce environmental contamination. This can reduce the risk of infection in others coming into contact with these surfaces later on. Care must be taken when using bleach by following the manufacturer's instructions carefully to avoid injury when using such chemicals. Soft furnishings and materials should be washed following the manufacturer's instructions.

For further advice, download their updated guidance here, 'Guidelines for the management of norovirus outbreaks in acute and community health and social care settings'.

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