GPs have been warned to expect a rise in the number of norovirus cases following the Christmas break, after cases rose earlier than expected last year.
The warning from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) comes after the number of laboratory cases of norovirus reported this season, which began in late July, was 72% higher than at the same point last year.
HPA experts said, as expected, there had been a dip in cases reported over the Christmas period, though officals warned that in previous seasons the general trend is that cases increase in the New Year.
The HPA added that it is estimated that for each confirmed case, there are a further 288 unreported cases, as the vast majority of patients with norovirus do not go and see their GP or seek other health care services.
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.’