Norovirus outbreaks lead to closure of 1,100 hospital beds in just one week as 'winter vomiting bug' cases rise

Embargoed to 0001 Wednesday December 04 File photo dated 03/10/14 of a hospital ward. Around a quarter of UK hospital staff were born abroad, according to new figures showing how immigration has helped stop "almost unimaginable" shortages in the NHS workforce.
NHS England says norovirus cases are on the rise - with one hospital shutting down a number of wards due to the spread of the "winter vomiting bug" (PA)

Norovirus has forced hospitals in England to close 1,100 beds in just one week - with one facility shutting down four wards to prevent the virus from spreading.

New data from Public Health England (PHE) said the number of norovirus laboratory reports for November 11 to 24 was 28 percent higher than the average for the same period in the previous five years.

Double the number of hospital beds have also been closed every day over the last week than at the same time last year, while trusts try to stop the bug spreading between patients.

Blood sample positive with Norovirus
Cases of norovirus in the UK are on the rise this winter (GETTY)

The illness - sometimes referred to as the "winter vomiting bug" - causes vomiting and diarrhoea among patients of all ages.

A school was forced to shut its doors after more than 100 pupils became bedridden with the virus.

One hospital - the Royal Berkshire in Reading - has closed four wards, confirming six patients had tested positive for the bug, while a further five cases are currently being investigated.

General view of the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading
General view of the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading

As such, NHS England is advising people to stay at home for 48 hours if they get the bug to avoid passing it on.

NHS medical director, Professor Stephen Powis said: “We’ve already seen a number of hospitals and schools affected by norovirus, and unfortunately instances like these are likely to rise over the coming weeks.

“It’s a really unpleasant illness to catch, but for the vast majority of people it will usually pass in a couple of days, and self-treating at home is the best way to help yourself and avoid putting others at risk.

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“Crucially, if you’re experiencing norovirus symptoms it’s important that you don’t return to work or school for 48 hours after they clear – and avoid visiting elderly or ill friends and relatives – to avoid spreading it to other people.”

People with concerns are advised to stay at home and contact NHS 111 or talk to their GP by phone.

It is estimated that between 600,000 and one million people in the UK become infected each year.

EMBARGOED TO 0001 MONDAY NOVEMBER 18 File photo dated 03/10/14 of a nurse on a ward at a hospital. Most people believe that transferring NHS staff to private companies is unacceptable, a new study suggests.
People suffering symptoms of norovirus have been urged to stay at home and to not attend doctors or hospitals to prevent the spread of the illness (PA)

About 12 to 48 hours after becoming infected, the virus causes sudden onset of nausea followed by vomiting and diarrhoea.

Meanwhile, a branch of Wetherspoons in Lancaster - The Sir Richard Owen - has been closed until further notice following a norovirus outbreak.