Winter vomiting cases 'to double'

THE number of winter vomiting virus cases in Suffolk is on course to almost double this year, experts have warned.A total of 15 outbreaks of norovirus have already occurred in the county in the first five months of this year compared to 20 in the whole of 2007.

Danielle Nuttall

THE number of winter vomiting virus cases in Suffolk is on course to almost double this year, experts have warned.

A total of 15 outbreaks of norovirus have already occurred in the county in the first five months of this year compared to 20 in the whole of 2007.

Health experts say the virus season is occurring much earlier than in previous years and is lasting longer. It is also becoming more powerful and can affect people more than once.


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In 2007, around 500 people in Suffolk were affected by the norovirus, which is often known as winter vomiting virus. The exact number of individual cases so far in 2008 is not yet known.

Sufferers get bouts of diarrhoea and vomiting which last for one or two days, but may remain contagious even after they start feeling better. Although it is more common in the winter months, outbreaks sometimes happen in the spring.

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On Monday it emerged that nearly a quarter of the wards at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds had been closed to new admission because an outbreak.

The hospital said 13 patients still showed symptoms of norovirus, while 43 patients had fully recovered.

Patients with the virus have been isolated in the affected wards to prevent the illness from spreading, while visitors who have shown symptoms have been urged to stay away.

Dr Sujeevani Munasinghe, associate specialist at the Suffolk Health Protection Office, said: “The norovirus normally starts in late December or January but last year it started in the first week of November.

“We have not identified any reasons at all. It could be that the norovirus is frequently changing. This particular virus becomes very resistant. If you get it this year you're still able to get the virus next year or have several episodes. Your immunity is not enough and people are really vulnerable all the time.

“You only need a small dose to get infected. It could be becoming more powerful.”

Dr Munasinghe said improvements had been made to diagnostic methods in laboratories which meant it was now much easier for health professionals to send off samples for quicker diagnosis.

The health expert advised people to take the normal hygiene precautions such as hand washing with soap and water.

“We always advise a chlorine solution in a health care setting because the virus is very resistant,” she added.

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