London: Hospital outbreaks of norovirus in the UK have increased by a third while enquiries from worried patients are up 60 per cent, government figures have revealed.
In the last two weeks there have been 46 outbreaks of the winter vomiting bug compared to 35 in the previous fortnight. Hundreds of wards have been closed to new patients while
cleaning takes place.
Meanwhile there has been a 60 per cent rise in enquiries about the bug on National Health Service (NHS) websites, the figures have shown.
Norovirus causes violent and sudden vomiting and diarrhorea which can be lethal to the very young and elderly, especially those in hospitals or care homes were it can spread
Between October and the end of December there were 116,085 visits to the NHS Choices norovirus pages compared with just 70,347 in the same period last year.
However, officials at the Health Protection Agency, said that levels of norovirus this year have remained below what would normally be expected, `The Daily Telegraph` reported.
John Harris, an epidemiologist specialising in norovirus said, "It is not surprising that we are seeing hospital ward closures due to norovirus as norovirus infections increase during the winter.
"Because the virus is highly contagious once it is in a hospital, closing wards to reduce the spread is often necessary and we commonly see this measure introduced at this time of the year.
"Hospitals should have a plan in place for managing an outbreak of norovirus and their infection control team will implement strict measures in order to help prevent the virus
from spreading to other wards or departments in the hospital."