– spokesman, department of health
The NHS is well prepared for the increase in winter related health problems which are typical at this time of year.
Our weekly published figures show the number of beds closed across the NHS due to norovirus symptoms is around two per cent.
This compares to 2.9 per cent of beds that were closed during the peak of norovirus cases last winter.
The peak season for norovirus cases is normally from January to April, according to the Health Protection Agency.
Whilst the current figures show an increase in cases earlier in the season than is usual, the numbers could still rise in the new year.
- Do not visit your GP surgery or A&E - you will recover naturally without treatment.
- Drink plenty to replace lost fluids.
- Wash hands thoroughly and regularly - particularly after using the toilet and before eating.
- Do not visit friends or relatives in hospitals or residential care homes to avoid introducing the infection.
- Use NHS Direct online health and symptom checker to manage diarrhoea and vomiting.
Here are the latest figures from the Health Protection Agency on confirmed cases of norovirus. Confirmed cases only represent a fraction of the actual number, however.
- 337 in the week ending December 9
- 236 in the week ending December 2
- 327 in the week ending November 25
- 3,046 in this season to date
- 61 hospital outbreaks in the two weeks to December 16
The number of confirmed cases of norovirus in England and Wales is 83% higher than this time last year, according to the latest figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA).
There have been 3,046 confirmed cases so far this season, compared with 1,669 last season. The norovirus season runs from around November to April.
It has been estimated that for every confirmed case there are around 288 unreported cases, since the vast majority of affected people do not access health care services.
By that reckoning, almost 880,000 people could have been affected.
The Managing Director of P&O Cruises has apologised after at least 300 out of 1,843 passengers on board the Oriana, fell ill during a ten day cruise through the Baltic Sea.
Carol Marlow said "We had a number of people who were taken ill. I have written to all the passengers saying how sorry I am. These are our passengers. We want them to have a good time so they sail with us again".
The company confirmed that any passengers with particular concerns might be entitled to compensation, but that this would be decided on an individual basis.
In a letter given to passengers when they boarded the P&O cruise liner Oriana ten days ago, the medical team admits that some passengers on a previous sailing had suffered from norovirus symptoms.
The company arranged for the liner to undergo an "extensive disinfection" while she was in Southampton. Some 300 passengers contracted norovirus during their trip.
P&O has sent passengers who travelled on board the Oriana a letter advising them to take "extra precautions" to prevent the spread of the norovirus.
The letter says that the company suspected that the illness was "inadvertently introduced on board by embarking passengers" because of "currently elevated Norovirus activity throughout the United Kingdom".
It advised passengers that "the case numbers decreased rapidly during the cruise" and that "the ship has undergone an additional and extensive disinfection".
Relatives of patients in critical care, paediatrics or maternity units at Birmingham City Hospital will still be able to visit despite an outbreak of the norovirus, a hospital spokesperson has confirmed. Visitors will also be allowed to the Birmingham and Midland Eye Centre.