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Norovirus activity 'on the rise'

The annual rise in norovirus cases has hit early this year according to experts at the Health Protection Agency.

Laboratory reports on the ‘winter vomiting’ bug were up by 27% so far this season, compared with the same period last year, data shows. the norovirus season starts in late July for reporting purposes.

And nationally the number of calls to NHS Direct for vomiting are above expected for this time of year suggesting higher levels of the bug circulating in the community, the HPA said.

Figures collected through QSurveillance also show that GP consultations for vomiting and diarrhoea are above what is normally seen at this time, with the latest figures showing consultation rates of 20.1 and 32.9 per 100,000 practice population, respectively.

Rotavirus has also put in an appearance early with a 41% rise in laboratory-confirmed cases in weeks 35 to 44 of the year, compared with the average over the past decade. But rates have now fallen back to what would be expected in November, the HPA weekly report said.  

John Harris, an epidemiologist specialising in the surveillance of norovirus at the HPA said: ‘Since beginning of October we have seen a rise in the number of laboratory reports of norovirus, this number of laboratory reports in recent weeks is higher in comparison to the same weeks in previous years.  

‘However, norovirus activity fluctuates and no two years of norovirus activity are the same.’

He added that although the highly infectious virus usually resolves within a couple of days it causes widespread disruption in hospitals and nursing homes.

The HPA are advising that unless symptoms persist for more than three or four days people should not go to their GP or hospital but seek advice over the telephone from NHS Direct.

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