Norovirus cases in the UK are 75 per cent higher than normal due to an outbreak in care homes. 

More than 1,200 cases of the virus were detected in April compared to the five-season average of 706 lab-confirmed cases, the UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA) have revealed.

Most lab cases were found in people aged over 65 and across care home and social care areas.

Norovirus, the winter vomiting bug, is a stomach bug that causes vomiting and diarrhoea.

The UKHSA said the unusually high numbers of cases could be due to the unseasonally cold weather or changes in the epidemiology or testing practices following the pandemic, The Times reports.

An outbreak of norovirus in care homes has seen cases in the UK rise to 75 per cent higher than usual

An outbreak of norovirus in care homes has seen cases in the UK rise to 75 per cent higher than usual

Norovirus, the winter vomiting bug, is a stomach bug that causes vomiting and diarrhoea (stock image)

Norovirus, the winter vomiting bug, is a stomach bug that causes vomiting and diarrhoea (stock image)

In May, it was reported that cases soared to their highest seasonal level in five years amid a nationwide surge.

Amy Douglas, a norovirus epidemiologist at the UKHSA previously said: ‘Norovirus levels were higher in April than we would usually see at this time of year and have been increasing.

‘This is likely due to a combination of factors, but the colder weather we have had won’t have helped.

 ‘Norovirus can cause dehydration, especially in vulnerable groups such as young children and older or immunocompromised people, so if you do get ill it is important to drink plenty of fluids. 

‘If you have got diarrhoea and vomiting, you can take steps to avoid passing the infection on.’

She added: ‘Do not return to work, school or nursery until 48 hours after your symptoms have stopped and don’t prepare food for others in that time either.

‘If you are unwell, avoid visiting people in hospitals and care homes to prevent passing on the infection in these settings. 

The UKHSA said the unusually high numbers of cases could be due to the unseasonally cold weather or changes in the epidemiology or testing practices following the pandemic (stock image)

The UKHSA said the unusually high numbers of cases could be due to the unseasonally cold weather or changes in the epidemiology or testing practices following the pandemic (stock image)

Washing your hands with soap and warm water and using bleach-based products to clean surfaces will also help stop infections from spreading.

What is norovirus?

Norovirus, the winter vomiting bug, is a stomach bug that causes vomiting and diarrhoea.

It usually goes away in around two days.

The main symptoms are nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting. Some people also have a high temperature, a headache and aching arms and legs.

Symptoms usually start one or two days after being infected.

People can usually manage their symptoms at home. 

However, in severe cases, some people may need to be hospitalised with the elderly and children most at-risk.

The NHS recommends drinking lots of fluids and avoiding dehydration.

The virus is spread through close contact with someone with the virus, or eating food that has been prepared by them.

It can also be passed on by touching objects that are contaminated with the virus and then touching your mouth.

Norovirus can pile pressures on hospitals because infected patients need to be isolated in single rooms or wards need to be closed to new patients to contain the spread. 

‘Alcohol gels do not kill norovirus so don’t rely on these alone.’

Experts have suggested Covid restrictions could also be partly to blame for the current surge, as fewer people have been exposed to norovirus than usual since the start of the pandemic.

Our bodies may be less well-equipped to fight off the infection after years with little exposure to them, according to their theory.

The same reason was partly blamed for the unprecedented spike in scarlet fever cases, which in 2022 ballooned to the highest number reported since the 1950s.

But they also cautioned new strains of the bug could be behind the rise.

Professor Adam Finn, a member of the Government’s vaccine advisory panel, at the University of Bristol, told MailOnline: ‘The larger than usual recent numbers may still be related, at least in part, to the drop in numbers during the Covid lockdown period.

‘We are still seeing unusual epidemiology in terms of numbers of cases and seasonality of numerous infections, post pandemic. The relatively poor weather during the spring may also have contributed.

‘Sometimes we see emergence of new strains of norovirus against which people have little or no immunity from previous infections.

‘Around 17 per cent of the very recent cases have been due to a strain called G.II.17 which has only emerged quite recently. So this too may be contributing to the higher than usual number of cases.’

He added: ‘There are also vaccines on the horizon with one about to announce results of a phase three trial.

‘So, we may have the tools to prevent or at least reduce this problem in the not-too-distant future.’

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