THE reported norovirus infection rate is 83 per cent higher than this time last year.

South London Healthcare Trust (SLHT) has warned the public to remain vigilant as the illness is affecting people all over the UK.

Hospitals run by SLHT, which include Princess Royal University Hospital in Farnborough, Queen Elizabeth in Woolwich and Queen Mary’s Hospital in Woolwich, are mostly unaffected by norovirus at this time. However it is recommended members of the public who have had diarrhoea or vomiting in the previous three days should not go the hospital.

Symptoms of an infection, which can last between 12 and 60 hours, also include a fever, headache, stomach cramps and aching limbs. Most people recover within two days.

The virus is easily spread from person to person therefore individuals should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water after contact with an affected person or environment.

Director of infection prevention and control at SLHT Tracey Cooper said:"Although our hospitals currently have low levels of norovirus, there are high seasonal levels in the community and we urge anyone with symptoms of norovirus, not to attend hospital unless it is an emergency."

There have been 3,046 confirmed laboratory reports of norovirus which is 83 per cent higher than the same period in the last season when there were 1,669 cases reported. The actual number of the cases is even higher since most people with the virus don't access health care while they are infected.

To help reduce the spread of the virus, people who are affected should:

•    Drink plenty of fluids

•    Avoid going to hospital if possible unless symptoms are severe or there are complicating factors.

•    Do not visit people in hospital or in care homes until they have been symptom free for at least 48 hours.

•    Stay off work whilst unwell and for 48 hours after the symptoms have resolved.

•    Parents should be advised to keep affected children away from school, nursery, playgroup or childminding services whilst they are unwell and for 48 hours after the child has recovered.

•   If you need further advice for yourself or your family, contact your GP or speak to your local pharmacist.

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