Norovirus symptoms 2021: what is the winter sickness bug, treatment, incubation period - and is it contagious?

The winter vomiting bug is highly contagious and causes vomiting and diarrhoea

A norovirus outbreak at a childcare centre has seen 33 people fall ill, with parents now urged to spot symptoms to help prevent further spread.

The highly contagious stomach bug was detected in eastern Ireland at the end of October and a further five cases were linked to a hospital outbreak in the north east of the country two weeks after.

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Like most viruses, the bug tends to thrive in the winter months and can be easily spread through close contact.

Public Health England (PHE) advises that people experiencing symptoms of norovirus do not return to work, or send children to school or nursery, until at least 48 hours after symptoms have cleared.

Regular handwashing with soap and water is also recommended, as alcohol gels do not kill off the bug.

What is norovirus and is it contagious?

Norovirus, commonly known as the winter vomiting bug, is a highly contagious stomach bug which causes vomiting and diarrhoea.

The virus is easily transmitted through close contact with people who have been infected, or by touching contaminated surfaces.

It can also be spread by eating food that has been prepared or handled by someone with the bug.

While the virus can be very unpleasant, it usually passes in a couple of days.

What is the incubation period?

The onset of symptoms usually starts suddenly within 24 to 48 hours after contracting the bug, although they can appear as early as 12 hours after exposure in some cases.

What are the symptoms?

The main symptoms of norovirus typically include:

  • feeling sick (nausea)
  • diarrhoea
  • being sick (vomiting)

Other common symptoms can include a high temperature, a headache and aching arms and legs.

How is it treated?

The best way to treat norovirus is to get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids to avoid dehydration.

Symptoms will usually pass in around two to three days.

As the bug is highly contagious, it is advised that you stay at home until 48 hours after symptoms stop to prevent passing the bug on.

What precautions can I take?

PHE has urged people to take five simple precautions to help reduce the risk of contracting and spreading the virus.

These include:

  • Staying at home until 48 hours after symptoms stop.
  • Washing your hands frequently with soap. Alcohol gels do not kill norovirus.
  • Making sure you thoroughly clean all surfaces after a person has been sick.
  • Avoiding cooking and preparing meals for 48 hours after symptoms have stopped.
  • Washing any clothing or bedding using detergent and a temperature of 60C.

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