- 11 updates
More than half a million people have contracted norovirus already this winter as cases are 64 per cent higher than this time last year, according to the Telegraph.
Health Protection Agency figures show that around 666,144 people have fallen ill so far this winter.
The NHS is "well prepared" to cope with winter-related health problems, according to the Department of Health, despite Britain being in the grip of a winter vomiting outbreak.
Thousands of cases have struck England and Wales and 45 hospital wards have been forced to close.
The winter vomiting outbreak spreading through Britain has led to 45 hospital wards being closed in the last two weeks.
The closures reflect the desire of hospitals to contain an extremely contagious infection.
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has announced that 1,975 cases have struck in England and Wales since July, a 52% rise on last year.
Daybreak's Health Editor Dr Hilary Jones has told viewers that Norovirus is "very bad news".
He said: "Although it's not hugely a life-threatening it is the most common form of gastroenteritis in adults in the UK."
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water, particularly after using the toilet and before preparing food.
- Do not share towels and flannels.
- Disinfect any surfaces or objects that could be contaminated with the virus. It is best to use a bleach-based household cleaner.
- Wash any clothing or bedding that could have become contaminated with the virus. Wash the items separately and on a hot wash to ensure that the virus is killed.
- Flush away any infected faeces or vomit in the toilet and clean the surrounding toilet area.
- Avoid eating raw, unwashed produce and only eat oysters from a reliable source. Oysters have been known to carry the norovirus.
- Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
- If you feel like eating, eat foods that are easy to digest.
- Take paracetamol for any fever or aches and pains.
- Stay at home and don't go to the doctor, because norovirus is contagious and there is nothing the doctor can do while you have it.
- However, contact your GP to seek advice if your symptoms last longer than a few days or if you already have a serious illness.
Norovirus symptoms include a sudden onset of vomiting - which can be projectile in nature - and/or diarrhoea - which may be profuse and watery.
Some people may also have a temperature, headache and stomach cramps. The illness usually completely resolves in one or two days and there are no long term effects.
For most people affected by norovirus it is an unpleasant but short lived illness.
There is no specific treatment other than to let the illness run its course, taking plenty of drinks to replace lost fluids.
- Sheffields Northern General Hospital has closed four wards and is advising visitors to stay away.
- It confirmed it was aware of four members of staff off-sick with the virus.
- Warwick Hospital also confirmed six wards were affected - although not all were closed - and said that three nurses had the illness. It has banned visits to the six wards.
- Other hospitals which have outbreaks include Solihull in the West Midlands, East Surrey Hospital, Weston General Hospital in Weston-super-Mare, and Hinchingbrooke in Cambridgeshire.
Norovirus is normally brought into hospitals by patients, visiting relatives or even staff.
It is also linked to outbreaks at schools and is responsible for many hospital admissions for young children.
The elderly are also vulnerable because they can become dehydrated quickly and end up requiring more hospital treatment.
It is extremely contagious and is often spread by touching the same doors or stair rails as someone with the virus.
Experts also say that when a patient vomits, there is a strong chance anyone else in the room will be infected.
It puts the NHS under huge strain because hospitals have to close wards - which limits the number of patients that can be admitted.
- The number of confirmed reports of the virus - where samples have been sent by hospitals or GPs to laboratories for tests - is up 52 per cent on last year.
- There have been 1,975 cases since July - compared to 1,301 this time last year.
- However, this is a just a tiny fraction of the real number because the vast majority of victims do not report their symptoms to their GP.
- In addition, there have now been 53 outbreaks at NHS trusts across the country.
- This includes 45 hospitals which have been forced to close off wards and find space for patients elsewhere while they carry out a deep clean of the wards.