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Vale of York residents urged to become norovirus know-it-alls

There are many things to look forward to during winter: cosying up in front of the fire, festive knitwear and Christmas, to name just a few. But norovirus, or the winter vomiting bug as it’s commonly known, is definitely not one of them.

While it very nearly tis the season to be jolly, it certainly tis the season to be prepared, to help ward off winter bugs no less.

So, with that in mind, local GPs at NHS Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) are urging people to educate themselves about norovirus to protect themselves and others this winter.

Know the symptoms

Norovirus causes a sudden feeling of sickness, vomiting and diarrhoea, while some people might have a slight fever, headaches, stomach cramps and aching limbs. Symptoms usually last between one and two days but the severity and duration of symptoms can vary from person to person.

Stay away

You might take chocolates, magazines or grapes when visiting a friend or relative in hospital but, whatever you bring, make sure it’s not norovirus. If you’ve been vomiting or had diarrhoea in the last 48 hours, do not visit hospitals or other healthcare centres such as GP surgeries.

Norovirus spreads rapidly in closed environments such as these. If you have norovirus and visit these places, you risk spreading the illness to others, including those who may already be unwell.

Norovirus usually lasts between one and two days so stay at home for at least 48 hours after symptoms have cleared. There’s no cure for norovirus so you have to let it run its course.

Call, rather than visit, your GP or NHS 111 if you’re concerned or need medical advice. You don't normally need to see your GP if you have norovirus because there's no specific treatment for it, while antibiotics won't help because it's caused by a virus.

Keep it clean

Good hygiene (personal and around the home) is vital in helping to reducing your chances of catching norovirus. Be sure to regularly wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after you use the toilet, or before touching or preparing food. Antibacterial hand gel alone does nothing to stop a viral infection like Norovirus.

Just to clarifiy, we’re not talking about a few seconds under the tap here – wash your hands for as long as it takes you to sing the Happy Birthday song (warning: you might get a few odd looks if you sing out loud in a public or communal toilet). Remember this mantra: wet, lather, scrub, rinse, dry. Follow this process every time you wash your hands.

When preparing food, which you shouldn’t do if you’re infected, all fresh produce should be washed thoroughly and all surfaces should be wiped down and disinfected before cooking. Norovirus can survive for several days in a contaminated area so keeping areas clean helps to prevent it spreading.

When cleaning contaminated surfaces use bleach-based household cleaners and handle garments with plastic gloves. Wash these items of clothing separately on a high heat to kill the germs. Flush away any infected faeces or vomit in the toilet and clean the surrounding area.

Look after yourself (at home)

When you’re holed up at home waiting for the symptoms to clear make sure you drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Be sure to get plenty of rest and take paracetamol to ease fever or aches and pains.
Remember: you should stay at home until at least 48 hours after symptoms have cleared to ensure you don’t infect others.

A GP’s view…

Dr Andrew Phillips, a local GP and the CCG’s joint medical director, said: “There’s no specific treatment for norovirus so it’s really important that you equip yourself with knowledge about norovirus to help reduce your chances of catching it.

“Practise good hygiene by regularly washing your hands with soap and water and cleaning your home with bleach-based cleaners.

“If you do catch norovirus be sure to get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids. Eat plain foods such as bread, pasta and rice if you feel up to it.

“Do not visit your GP practice, hospitals or any other place where you could pass the virus on to already vulnerable people. You can always call your GP, rather than visit them, if you do need medical advice.”

Want more information about norovirus? Read our Q&A guide with Dr Phillips

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