Stomach flu earlier, worse in Britain

Nov. 11, 2012 at 12:35 AM

LONDON, Nov. 11 (UPI) -- Norovirus, or the stomach flu, is 27 percent higher in Britain than at the same time last year and six weeks earlier than usual, health officials say.

Officials at the Health Protection Agency confirmed 1,207 cases of norovirus with laboratory tests in England, but this is considered the tip of the iceberg with thousands more people suffering from the stomach virus without seeing a doctor or being tested, The Daily Telegraph reported.

"We are now seeing an increase in norovirus activity; infections due to norovirus tend to increase from late autumn each year," John Harris, an epidemiologist at the HPA, told The Daily Telegraph. "Since beginning of October we have seen a rise in the number of laboratory reports of norovirus, this number of laboratory reports in recent weeks is higher in comparison to the same weeks in previous years."

The stomach virus causes violent sudden onset vomiting and diarrhea can be life threatening to the elderly, the chronically ill and very young children but in healthy adults it usually clears up within two days, health officials said.

Norovirus can be spread though poor hand hygiene, Harris said.

Hospital norovirus outbreaks for last month were 89 compared to 49 outbreaks in October last year, officials at the HPA said.

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