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Home News centre National Press Releases 2013 Press Releases ›  HPA update on seasonal norovirus activity: 2 January 2013

HPA update on seasonal norovirus activity: 2 January 2013

2 January 2013

Latest figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) show there have been 3,877 laboratory confirmed cases of norovirus this season (from week 27 to week 51 2012). The latest figures are 72 per cent higher than the number of cases reported at this point last year, when there were 2,255 cases.


During the Christmas period there is typically a drop in the number of laboratory reports. In previous norovirus seasons the general trend is that cases increase in the New Year and we expect to see cases rise again over the next few weeks.

During the two weeks up to 30 December there were 29 hospital outbreaks reported, compared to 70 in the previous fortnight, bringing the total of outbreaks for the season to 590.

Cases of norovirus have risen earlier than expected this winter season and this is a trend that has been seen across Europe and other parts of the world. It has not yet been determined why this has been the case and activity varies significantly from year to year.

John Harris, an expert in norovirus from the HPA said: “As we have seen in previous years there has been a dip in the number of confirmed laboratory reports owing to the Christmas and New Year period. However, in line with other norovirus seasons we will expect to see an increase in the number of laboratory reports in the next few weeks.

“Norovirus is very contagious, and anyone who has had it knows it is very unpleasant. If you think you may have the illness then it is important to maintain good hand hygiene to help prevent it spreading. We also advise that people stay away from hospitals, schools and care homes as these environments are particularly prone to outbreaks.”

Norovirus can be transmitted by contact with contaminated surfaces or objects, by contact with an infected person, or by the consumption of contaminated food or water. Symptoms of norovirus include a sudden onset of vomiting and/or diarrhoea. Some people may have a temperature, headache and stomach cramps. The illness usually resolves in one or two days and there are no long-term effects.

Ends

Notes to editors

  1. Indications from Europe and Japan are that norovirus activity also started to increase early. In Australia the norovirus season also peaks during the winter but this season it has gone on longer than usual and they are seeing cases into their summer. The HPA is following up with colleagues internationally.
  2. The number of laboratory confirmed cases represents just a fraction of the actual amount of norovirus activity as it is estimated that for each confirmed case, there are a further 288 unreported cases, as the vast majority of those affected do not seek healthcare services in response to their illness. Data from The Infectious Intestinal Diseases II (IID II) report can be found at the Food Standards Agency website [external link].
  3. The latest norovirus report can be found at the HPA Norovirus page
  4. Guidelines for the management of norovirus in acute and community health and social care settings can be found from the Guidelines for the management of norovirus outbreaks in acute and community health and social care settings (PDF, 2.6 MB) document.
  5. The Health Protection Agency is an independent UK organisation that was set up by the government in 2003 to protect the public from threats to their health from infectious diseases and environmental hazards. In April 2013, subject to the usual approvals procedures for establishing new bodies, the Health Protection Agency will become part of a new organisation called Public Health England, an executive agency of the Department of Health. To find out more, visit our website: http://www.hpa.org.uk or follow us on Twitter @HPAuk or ‘Like’ us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HealthProtectionAgency [external link].
  6. For more information please contact the national HPA press office at Colindale on 0208 327 7901 or email colindale-pressoffice@hpa.org.uk. Out of hours the duty press officer can be contacted on 0208 200 4400.

Last reviewed: 2 January 2013