Thursday, July 7, 2022

Norovirus cases 40% higher than average as children return to school

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Norovirus diagram. There has been an outbreak of norovirus, as the UK comes out of its coronavirus lockdown, with a recent, startling spike in cases.
The stomach bug usually shows up in winter but it has not spread this quickly for the last five years (Picture: Getty Images)

Almost 40% more people are suffering from norovirus than the usual rate for this time of year, according to new health figures.

The UK has been hit with an outbreak of the highly contagious vomiting and diarrhea bug, norovirus.

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Although it typically spreads during the winter, it seems to be getting transmitted much quicker than usual.

Cases are 37% higher than the average has been for the same time period in the past five years, according to new figures published by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

The bug has been slowly making its way around the country more than scientists expected since week 25 of this year (June 21 to June 27).

But the startling 37% increase in cases only happened between week 35 and week 38 (August 29 to September 26).

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Most reports have been from educational settings so experts believe the surge could be linked to children going back to school.

People sitting in a tube with a mask on. There has been an outbreak of norovirus, as the UK comes out of its coronavirus lockdown, with a recent, startling spike in cases.
Coronavirus measures, such as wearing masks, seems to have slowed the spread of other seasonal illnesses (Picture: Getty Images)

The UKHSA report said: ‘It is possible that further unusual or out of season increases in norovirus activity could be seen in the coming months.’

This is because all of the norovirus’s ‘usual’ and ‘in season’ activity took place before the coronavirus pandemic and its consequential lockdowns.

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Coronavirus restrictions forced people to wear masks, socially distance, clean their hands more and stay inside their houses.

And this has helped stop people from contracting seasonal illnesses as much as they would under normal circumstances.

But as restrictions lifted people began mixing again, with potentially less immunity to these ailments, and now there are high cases of norovirus and the flu.

The UKHSA’s Dr Lesley Larkin said: ‘Norovirus, commonly known as the winter vomiting bug, has been at lower levels than normal throughout the pandemic with less opportunity to spread between people in the community but as restrictions have eased we have seen an increase in cases across all age groups.’

Someone cleaning a toilet. There has been an outbreak of norovirus, as the UK comes out of its coronavirus lockdown, with a recent, startling spike in cases.
Norovirus can be spread between people and infected surfaces (Picture: Getty Images)

The rise in these conditions, coupled with growing coronavirus cases, threatens to put the NHS under strain again.

On top of this, scientists are worried about how the illnesses which spread less during the pandemic will now respond to coronavirus.

The Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said: ‘It is also possible there will be interactions between SARS-CoV-2 and other infections, both in combination and in competition. Any such effects are as yet unknown.’

Dr Larkin advised people to keep washing their hands, saying it was ‘really important’ to stop the spread of norovirus – ‘as with Covid’.

‘But remember, unlike for Covid-19 alcohol gels do not kill off norovirus so soap and warm water is best,’ she added.

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