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Norovirus infections expected to peak this week

The rate of norovirus infections is due to peak this week after reaching a five-year high, according to the Health Protection Agency.

The season started uncharacteristically early with a large number of cases in the first week of November and latest data show the largest number of cases since 2002.

Weeks 36 to 48 of 2007 saw 1325 lab reports of norovirus infections in England and Wales compared to 685 in 2005. The same period in 2002 saw 1845 infections. These figures are a tiny fraction – around 1:1500 – of actual infections.

Numbers should peak this week, based on previous years' patterns, the agency said.

Hospitals in England closed almost 100 wards to new admissions last week in a bid to halt spread of the virus.

Glamorgan GP Dr Claire Bateman said: ‘In the run up to Christmas we saw a lot of patients with nasty diarrhoea and vomiting but then we were inundated in the days before New Year and then the 2nd Jan surgery was a nightmare.'

Four wards at Dr Bateman's nearest hospital have been closed in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus.

Dr Ian Ferguson, a GP in County Durham, said: ‘I remember 2002 and it's not as bad as that up here yet- but this week will be the clincher as the schools reopen.'

The Department for Children, Schools and Families has advised parents to keep children showing symptoms at home for 48 hours after the infection has passed.

www.hpa.org.uk

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