England is seeing a ‘very high’ spike in norovirus cases, forcing health chiefs to issue a warning.
Cases of the highly infectious vomiting bug have been surging, mostly affecting people aged 65 and over.
NHS figures show an average of 551 adult hospital beds were occupied last week by patients with diarrhoea and vomiting or norovirus-like symptoms.
This is just over the 547 in the previous week, but it is more than double the 264 at this stage in 2022.
Dr Lesley Larkin, surveillance lead for gastrointestinal infections and food safety at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said outbreaks at schools have returned to pre-pandemic levels.
Parents have also been warned to be on the lookout as children in early years are ‘particularly affected’ by the illness.
But the highest rates are being seen in patients over the age of 65 and the under fives.
Dr Larkin said: ‘Norovirus levels continue to be very high and most reported cases are in the over-65s.
‘Young children and older adults are at greater risk of developing dehydration while unwell with norovirus.
‘Dehydration can result in hospitalisation, so it’s important to drink plenty of fluids when unwell and contact NHS 111 or your GP surgery if you need advice.
‘Norovirus is very infectious but there are things we can do to stop the spread.
‘Hand gels do not kill norovirus so handwashing with soap and warm water is best.
‘If you or your child get the virus you should not return to work – particularly if you work with vulnerable people or food – or send your children back to school until 48 hours after symptoms stop.’
Norovirus is the most common infectious cause of vomiting and diarrhoea.
It spreads easily through contact with someone who has the virus or with contaminated surfaces.
Most people make a full recovery within two or three days, although the virus can lead to dehydration, especially among the very young, elderly or those with weakened immune systems.
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