An ingredient found in pizza may help ward off the notorious winter vomiting bug, research has shown.
As cases of the norovirus soar across the UK, fresh guidance is issued by clinicians on how to treat the symptoms.
The number of confirmed cases of the winter vomiting bug, norovirus, is 72% higher than at this time last year, health experts have said.
The winter vomiting bug led to the closure of 1,500 hospital wards last year, figures show.
There were atotal of 1,818 norovirus outbreaks in hospitals in England last year, leading to the closure of 1,513 wards, according to figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA).
The HPA said that in October and November, 356 outbreaks were reported in hospitals - a 140% increase over the same period during the previous season.
The majority of recent cases of norovirus were caused by a new strain according to health experts.
The new variant of the winter vomiting bug called Sydney 2012, has become the "dominant strain" and will have caused many of the cases of the recent outbreak, officials said.
While other strains are still in circulation, Sydney 2012 is responsible for the majority of recent cases in England and Wales.
Health officials said that Sydney 2012, which has also been identified by health experts in France, New Zealand and Japan, is not more serious illness than other strains.
The HPA said yesterday there have been 4,140 laboratory-confirmed cases of norovirus so far this season - but for every reported case, an estimated 288 are not flagged up.
This means as many as 1.19 million people could have contracted the illness this season - a 63% rise on the previous year.
The number of confirmed cases of norovirus reported through the second half of last year rose by 63% compared with the same period in 2011, the Health Protection Agency has said.
Officials said there were 4,140 laboratory confirmed cases from early July until the final week of 2012, up from 2,535 cases the year before.
The officials said the recent Christmas and New Year period had seen a decline in the number of cases, as expected, although they anticipate an increase in the coming weeks.
The NHS is well prepared for the winter. No A&Es have had to close so far this winter and we are providing additional funding to the NHS to help it cope with the added pressure that the winter brings.
Flu and norovirus are typical at this time of year - that's why we are running the 'Catch It. Bin It. Kill It' campaign to remind people that one of the best ways to stop the spread of winter bugs is to Catch It, Bin It and Kill It when you cough or sneeze and wash your hands regularly.
– Department of Health spokesman
Our weekly published figures show the number of beds closed across the NHS due to norovirus symptoms is around 2.4%. This compares to 2.9% of beds that were closed during the peak of norovirus cases last winter.
Over 100,000 people were struck down with the winter vomiting bug over Christmas.
For every reported case of norovirus in England Wales, an estimated 288 were not flagged up, meaning around 1.12 million could have contracted the illness around Christmas, according to the Health Protection Agency.
This is roughly 100,000 more than the pre-Christmas period - until December 23 - when 1.01 million people were thought to have been struck by the bug.
Latest figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) show there has been a 72% increase in the number of cases reported at the same point last year.
The HPA have seen 3,877 laboratory confirmed cases of norovirus this season (from week 27 to week 51 2012).
Cases of norovirus have risen earlier than expected this winter season and this is a trend that has been seen across Europe and other parts of the world. It has not yet been determined why this has been the case and activity varies significantly from year to year.
- During the two weeks up to 30 December there were 29 hospital outbreaks reported, compared to 70 in the previous fortnight, bringing the total of outbreaks for the season to 590
John Harris, an expert in norovirus from the HPA said:
As we have seen in previous years there has been a dip in the number of confirmed laboratory reports owing to the Christmas and New Year period. However, in line with other norovirus seasons we will expect to see an increase in the number of laboratory reports in the next few weeks.
Norovirus is very contagious, and anyone who has had it knows it is very unpleasant. If you think you may have the illness then it is important to maintain good hand hygiene to help prevent it spreading. We also advise that people stay away from hospitals, schools and care homes as these environments are particularly prone to outbreaks.
Daybreak's Health Editor, Dr Hilary Jones has told viewers that "a million people are estimated to get the Norovirus every year."
"It's around all year long, it's just worse in the winter," he added.
The Norovirus bug, which has affected almost one million people in England and Wales, is highly contagious and can be transmitted through contact with an infected person or contaminated surfaces and objects.
It is known to spread rapidly in closed environments such as hospitals, schools and nursing homes.
Although people can suffer from norovirus at any time of the year, activity increases in the winter months, with most cases seen between January and March.
– John Harris, Heath Protection Agency Norovirus expert
The number of laboratory confirmed cases has risen once again as it appears that we have seen the rise in cases that usually begins in January start a little earlier than we normally expect.
Norovirus is very contagious, and very unpleasant. To help prevent spread of the disease, it's important that people who believe they are unwell with the virus maintain good hand hygiene and stay away from hospitals, schools and care homes, as these closed environments are particularly prone to outbreaks which can cause severe disruption.
The number of cases of winter vomiting bug norovirus could rise to more than one million, according to new figures released by the Health Protection Agency.
Latest statistics show that there have been 3,538 laboratory confirmed cases of the virus during a 23-week period up until December 16th this year.
The amount of norovirus cases represents a small percentage of the actual numbers of norovirus activity as it is estimated that for each confirmed case, there are a further 288 unreported cases.
The latest figures eclipse last year's statistics at the same point.