Highly contagious norovirus sweeping UK and all the symptoms you need to know

The UK Health Security Agency has sounded the alarm over a surge in norovirus cases, urging those with symptoms to stay home and curb the spread.

NHS figures reveal a sharp 45% increase in hospital bed occupancy due to diarrhoea, vomiting, or norovirus-like symptoms, with 678 adult beds occupied last week compared to 468 the week before. The numbers are just shy of this winter's peak at the end of January when 688 beds were filled.

Known as the most common stomach bug in the UK, norovirus is highly contagious and can be contracted through contact with an infected person or contaminated surfaces. While recovery typically occurs within a couple of days, norovirus can cause severe dehydration, particularly in vulnerable groups such as young children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems.


Amy Douglas, a norovirus expert at the UKHSA, commented: "Reports of norovirus have fluctuated over the last month but still remain high. If you have got diarrhoea and vomiting, you can take steps to avoid passing the infection on.

"Do not return to work, school or nursery until 48 hours after your symptoms have stopped and don't prepare food for others in that time either. If you are unwell, avoid visiting people in hospitals and care homes to prevent passing on the infection in these settings.

"Washing your hands with soap and warm water and using bleach-based products to clean surfaces will also help stop infections from spreading. Alcohol gels do not kill norovirus, so don't rely on these alone."

Known for causing gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the stomach and intestines, norovirus presents with symptoms such as nausea, sudden and profuse vomiting, watery diarrhoea, and potentially severe stomach cramps, reports Wales Online.

  • Low-Grade Fever: Some individuals may experience a slight fever

  • Muscle Pain: Generalized body aches or muscle pain can occur, although it is less common.

  • Fatigue: The infection can lead to a feeling of overall weakness and tiredness.

  • Headache: Some individuals may experience a headache during the course of the infection.

Symptoms usually develop 12 to 48 hours after exposure to the virus and typically last for 1 to 3 days. In some cases, especially in young children, older adults, and individuals with weakened immune systems, symptoms can be more severe and last longer.

Norovirus is highly contagious and spreads easily through contaminated food, water, surfaces, and close contact with infected individuals. Good hygiene practices, such as frequent handwashing and proper food handling, are crucial in preventing the spread of norovirus.