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New Health Alert: Norovirus Outbreaks on the Rise in England

According to Public Health England, the number of Norovirus cases in England has been increasing, particularly in early years settings. As more Norovirus outbreaks are being reported, how can we avoid infections in our settings?

What is Norovirus?

Also known as the “winter vomiting bug”, Norovirus is a stomach bug. The main symptoms are nausea, diarrhoea and projectile vomiting, with the possibility of a high temperature, headaches and aches in arms or legs. Symptoms start within 1-2 days of being infected, and last around 2 days.

The virus is highly infectious and can be spread by being in close contact with infected people or touching surfaces or objects with the virus on them, then touching your mouth.

While Norovirus is usually easy to treat at home (with lots of rest and fluids to avoid dehydration), the ease and way in which it spreads means early years settings are the prime location for outbreaks. Early years children are difficult to socially-distance (a lesson learned over the past 18 months of Covid-19) and are constantly putting things in their mouths.

In the past 5 weeks 154 outbreaks of Norovirus have been reported – nearly 3 times the average of 53 outbreaks reported over the same time period in the previous 5 years.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

How do we avoid the spread of Norovirus?

Any children who have shown Norovirus symptoms should be kept from attending early years settings until 48 hours after their last episode of vomiting or diarrhoea.

Any children displaying symptoms while in their setting must be sent home. While waiting for their family to arrive, keep them separate from other children as much as possible.

All children must be encouraged to wash their hands regularly with soap and water. This includes before and after activities and, especially, after going to the toilet.

Photo by Sasha Kim from Pexels

All surfaces and toys in the setting must be thoroughly disinfected regularly, especially if they have been touched by an infected child. Take a look at TNL’s guide to How to Properly Disinfect Setting Resources.

It is important to remember that alcohol-based hand gel does not kill Norovirus bacteria and will not adequately disinfect hands. Soap and water is the best solution.

For more information about Norovirus, visit the NHS website.