December 28, 2012
Norovirus Causing Unusually High Number Of Infections This Year
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
According to the UK Health Protection Agency (HPA), over a million people have contracted the norovirus this winter, which is nearly double the number from this time last year.
The norovirus is a winter vomiting bug that struck earlier than usual this year and cases this time around are running at a level normally seen about a month later into the season.
Figures show that 1.018 million have been hit with the vomiting virus this winter so far, according to HPA.
Laboratory tests by HPA confirmed 3,538 cases of norovirus this season, up from 3,046 cases last week.
The latest figures are 83 percent higher than the number of cases reported at this point last year when there were 1,934 cases.
While most work on samples from homes and hospitals, officials are working on a ratio of one laboratory case that could yield 288 more cases among people who do not need medical treatment and are not tested.
There were 70 hospital outbreaks reported during the two weeks up to December 23, compared to 61 in the previous fortnight, bringing the total of outbreaks for the season to 538.
HPA said that the distribution of norovirus cases across the season varies significantly from year to year, but the number of cases has risen earlier than expected this year.
The Queen Mary 2 cruise ship has reportedly been struck down by the norovirus, according to a report by the Daily Mail. The report said that about 130 passengers aboard the multi-million dollar ship have been reportedly ill during the tour.
“There has been an incidence of a mild gastrointestinal illness among the passengers on Queen Mary 2," a statement from the company read. “This illness is suspected to be norovirus, which is highly contagious and typically transmitted from person to person."
The Queen Mary 2 is on a 12-night Caribbean cruise which departed from New York on Saturday December 22. The company said there are 2,613 passengers on board, and that five percent of the passengers have been infected.
“The number of laboratory confirmed cases has risen once again as it appears that we have seen the rise in cases that usually begins in January start a little earlier than we normally expect," John Harris, an expert in norovirus from the HPA said in a statement.
He said that the virus is very contagious and very unpleasant, and that in order to prevent it, people must maintain good hand hygiene and stay away from hospitals, schools and care homes.
The virus can be transmitted by contact with contaminated surfaces or objects, by contact with an infected person, or by the consumption of contaminated food or water.
Symptoms of the virus include a sudden onset of vomiting, and or diarrhea. Some people may have a temperature, headache and stomach cramps. The illness generally resolves around one or two days and there are no long-term effects.