The number of people struck by a debilitating winter vomiting bug has rocketed with more than half a million Britons falling ill this winter, official figures have revealed.
Calculations yesterday showed that an estimated 666,144 people have fallen ill with norovirus so far this winter with the bug striking particularly early this year.
The number of confirmed cases on Monday stood at 2,313 compared with 1,412 at the same time last year – a 64 per cent rise, according to the Health Protection Agency (HPA).
The HPA could not explain the cause for the increasing number of cases this year but added that the norovirus season was always "unpredictable". "One thing we do know is that every year we will see a large amount of norovirus activity because it is highly contagious," said Dr Bob Adak, the HPA's head of gastrointestinal diseases.
The Department of Health said the NHS was "well-prepared" for the increase in winter health problems. It said just 1.8 per cent of beds across the NHS were currently closed due to the virus.
A spokesman added: "Anyone who thinks they may have norovirus should in the first instance call either NHS Direct or their local GP practice for advice. Please avoid attending A&E as this could spread the illness to vulnerable people and healthcare workers."
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