Officials have issued a health warning as norovirus outbreaks in hospitals have shot up by 50 per cent in a month.
The winter vomiting bug called norovirus is spreading rapidly doctors have warned as outbreaks rise by half in a month.
The winter vomiting bug, which causes violent sickness and diahorrea, strikes around two million people in Britain each year.
In the last month the disease has spread rapidly and health officials have received twice as many positive samples in laboratories while hospitals have experienced more outbreaks.
Since the beginning of November the Health Protection Agency has recorded 43 outbreaks of norovirus in hospitals of which 39 have led to ward closures. This is almost 50 per cent more than the number recorded in October.
Norovirus is highly contagious but is not normally dangerous to otherwise healthy people. The very young, old and pregnant women are more vulnerable.
John Harris, a HPA epidemiologist specialising in norovirus said: “Data from the HPA hospital norovirus reporting system shows the number of outbreaks reported in hospitals over the past month have increased by 50 per cent over the previous month.
“Laboratory reports of norovirus have doubled in November compared to October which means that the norovirus season is now well under way. Hospital outbreak reporting is a voluntary system and aims to provide a snap shot of activity within the NHS. This is a useful tool for health care professionals to understand what is happening both nationally and within their region.
“Norovirus comes on fairly suddenly, with little warning and is highly contagious. Anyone who thinks they may have it should not to go to their doctor’s surgery or A&E as this could spread the illness to vulnerable people and healthcare workers. This is particularly important in hospitals as norovirus outbreaks can lead to the ward closures and severe disruption to hospital services.”
The disease can be transmitted by eating contaminated food, or by touching surfaces where ill people have left the virus.