Norovirus Q&A: Bah humBUG... soap is key defence against scourge of Christmas present

The winter vomiting bug Norovirus threatens to ruin the holiday for tens of thousands of people this year – but with a little care the chances of succumbing to it can be reduced. By Jeremy Laurance

Why should we be worried?

Almost one million people have fallen victim to the bug since the summer and it is infecting around 100,000 people a week according to latest figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA). These show there were 337 laboratory-confirmed cases in the week ending 9 December, an 83 per cent increase on the previous week. For every confirmed case it is estimated there are 288 unreported cases.  This is the last update from the HPA before Christmas – the next will be published on 28 December.

Does it matter?

Yes – unless you think being struck down with diarrhoea and vomiting is fun at Christmas. It has already caused widespread disruption in hospitals, schools and care homes and poses a threat anywhere where people congregate. There were 61 hospital outbreaks in the two weeks to 16 December. However it is generally a mild illness – most people recover in a couple of days but in the unwell or elderly it can be more serious.

Is there anything special about it?

Yes – it is highly contagious. If a member of your family falls ill there is a high risk others will follow. It is transmitted by touch, contact with contaminated surfaces or consuming contaminated food or water. It is one of the few infections you really can catch from a toilet seat. The virus can travel almost 10 feet in a vomiting episode.

What is the best defence?

Soap. Plenty of it, used often and liberally. Soap is more effective at destroying the virus than alcohol hand gels. If you suspect someone may be infected avoid shaking hands. When handwashing is not an option, avoid touching your face or lips and giving the virus a lift to its intended destination – your small intestine.

Is it only transmitted by touch?

No. Occasionally, aerosolised  particles of the virus may float in the air, raising the prospect of more distant infection. A girl’s football team in Canada was laid low by the bug after a team-mate developed the illness even though she had had no contact with them. The source was traced to a grocery bag containing crisps and cookies in the bathroom the girl had used. When the team touched the bag and ate the crisps they became infected.

How do you get rid of it?

With difficulty. Tests suggest it can hang around on hard surfaces for up to two weeks, unless cleaned and disinfected. Its survival ability has led to its being dubbed the “ideal infectious agent.” As few as 18 particles of virus can infect a new person and there may be as many as a thousand in a speck of vomit. Despite research efforts, there is no sign of a vaccine to prevent it in sight.

Can it be treated?

Yes – with time. Nothing else works. Take paracetamol if you have a fever or headache, drink plenty to keep yourself hydrated (not tea, coffee or alcohol, which makes you pee more), and let nature take its course.

News
Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

    £300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

    High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

    £70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

    Teaching Assistant

    £50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

    Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

    £400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits