As England plans to enter its fourth and final stage reopen On Monday 19 July, Public Health England (PHE) is warning people to take steps to avoid catching and passing on the so-called winter vomiting bug.
According to PHE, 154 norovirus outbreaks have been reported in the past five weeks, compared to an average of 53 in the same period over the past five years.
The highly contagious but usually short-lived virus, which causes vomiting and diarrhea, has been reported primarily in early-year educational settings, PHE said.
Cases are returning to pre-pandemic levels as England prepares to reopen and the health system already “under stress” could be at risk, experts have warned.
Scientists have coined the word “immunity loan” To describe the phenomenon that occurs when people who have not been exposed to normal levels of viruses and bacteria experience an increase in infection upon resumption of normal life.
Dr Nick Scriven, immediate former president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: “We are now just days away from lifting the remaining restrictions in England and our NHS is under great stress.
“This is compounded by warnings today that cases of norovirus, commonly known as the winter vomiting bug, have now reached pre-pandemic levels in the summer.
“Given the impact this will have when it makes its way into hospitals – closing beds, infecting seriously unwell people and staff absenteeism – it is clearly very worrying.
“At the moment, physicians across the country are asking themselves what the government is thinking, given the fact that healthcare is being sabotaged.”
According to PHE, norovirus is easily transmitted through contact with infected persons or contaminated surfaces.
Professor Sahir Gharbia, deputy director of the National Infection Service, PHE, said the easing of restrictions has led to an increase in cases of the virus, giving more opportunities for spread among people in the community.
He said: “Symptoms include a sudden onset of nausea, projectile vomiting and diarrhea, but can also include a high temperature, abdominal pain and aching limbs.
“If you are experiencing norovirus symptoms, stay home and do not return to work or send children to school or nursery for 48 hours after symptoms have recovered.
“With COVID-19, hand washing is really important to help stop the spread of this bug, but remember, alcohol gels don’t kill norovirus unlike COVID-19 so soap and water is best.”
Other PHE advice includes using “bleach-based household cleaners or a combination of bleach and hot water” to disinfect potentially contaminated household surfaces and commonly used items; Washing any contaminated clothing or bedding with detergent and at 60°C, preferably wearing disposable gloves and, for those infected, avoiding cooking and helping to prepare food for others for 48 hours after symptoms have stopped .