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18 Dec 2013 Winter Vomiting Bug Season Begins

Health Protection Scotland has declared the norovirus season open, following an increase in levels of the winter vomiting bug across Scotland.

Levels of the bug usually pick up in October, but this year, levels of norovirus have remained low longer than normal. This week (beginning 9/12/2013), four NHS Boards reported norovirus activity with five hospitals affected with a total of seven wards closed.

Dr Evonne Curran, Infection Control Nurse Consultant for Health Protection Scotland, said: “The winter vomiting bug, like the flu, comes every winter. It is a highly-infectious virus that causes outbreaks in community and healthcare settings.

“Starting late does not necessarily mean that the season will cause fewer outbreaks. All the precautions and preparedness actions for norovirus are still very important.

“In particular we are asking members of the public to heed the ‘Stay at Home’ messages in the campaign launched by Health Scotland.

“Generally norovirus causes mild gastro-intestinal symptoms, (sickness and or diarrhoea) but in the elderly or sick persons symptoms can last longer and serious complications can arise. At this time it is even more important that people, if they have had symptoms of norovirus, follow the guidance in the Chief Medical Officer’s top tips and Stay at Home leaflet, and stay at home until they have been free of symptoms for 48 hours.”

Facts about Norovirus

  • Norovirus, commonly known as the winter vomiting bug has been called ‘the perfect pathogen’ because it spreads easily, symptoms start with little warning and infection does not mean you are immune.
  • Norovirus occurs every winter in the community, and is unrelated to hospital cleanliness.
  • There is no vaccine.
  • The virus continually changes and people don’t develop lasting immunity, so you can catch it more than once in a season.
  • Noroviruses can survive for days on any surface – including exposed food and wrapped food items.

Advice to the public

  • Norovirus, commonly known as the winter vomiting bug, is a highly contagious virus which causes vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • The first sign of norovirus is usually a sudden sick feeling, followed by forceful vomiting and watery diarrhoea.
  • Symptoms usually last a couple of days, although this can be longer in elderly people.
  • People are most likely to spread infection when they have symptoms and for up to 48 hours after your symptoms have gone.
  • It is more serious and even more easily spread among people who are already ill.

What to do if you’ve got it:

  • There is no specific treatment for norovirus.  You don’t need to see a doctor; your body will fight off the infection itself. 
  • It’s important to drink plenty of fluids and, if you feel the need, painkillers for any fever or aches and pains.

Preventing its spread

  • Norovirus can’t always be avoided, but you can help to prevent it spreading.
  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water, particularly after using the toilet.
  • Stay at home, avoid cooking for others, and don’t visit hospitals or care homes until at least 48 hours after your symptoms have gone.  You may still be infectious.  
  • It is still very important to maintain good hygiene even after symptoms have stopped.

For more information

Visit or call NHS Inform for more information 0800 24 44 88.

Notes to the Editor

1.  For more details of the latest picture, see Health Protection Scotland’s weekly report -

2. Chief Medical Officer’s top tips -

3. Stay at home leaflet -