PHA remind the public what to do if you catch norovirus


Although it’s not unusual to have cases of the winter vomiting bug also known as norovirus at this time of the year, the Public Health Agency (PHA) would like to remind the public of the simple, practical steps to minimise the risk of illness to others, especially older people and those with underlying conditions who may be more vulnerable.

Dr Gillian Armstrong, Interim Head of Health Protection at the PHA, said: “The winter vomiting virus is a frequent hazard to health that causes unpleasant and brief illness for many people. The most commonly reported symptoms are nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, which can begin suddenly.

“In some people, these are also accompanied by a raised temperature, headache and sore limbs. The illness can last as little as 12 hours or up to three days. Treatment is to stay at home, rest, take plenty of fluids, and reduce contact with others, both in the home and at work. It is very important that people who have symptoms do not visit hospitals or their GP surgery.”

Dr Armstrong emphasised that the winter vomiting virus is very infectious and can be easily spread in close-knit communities such as residential or nursing homes, schools, hospitals and workplaces.

“We are reminding people at this time of the year, that this unpleasant virus is active, but there are steps we can all take to protect ourselves and others,” said Dr Armstrong.

The risk of infection can be reduced by following these steps:

  • Always maintain good personal hygiene, in particular wash your hands after going to the toilet, and before preparing or eating food.
  • If you are vomiting or have diarrhoea, don’t visit friends or relatives in hospital or residential and nursing homes, and avoid visiting your GP’s surgery – it is much better to phone in for advice first.
  • Stay off school or work, until at least 48 hours after any symptoms stop.

Dr Armstrong continued: “The reality for most people is that this is a short-term, unpleasant illness, with most of us getting better within a few days. However, we can all play a part in keeping it at bay and protecting more vulnerable people, to whom it can present a more serious risk. The PHA greatly values everyone’s help in following this advice.”

Notes to the editor

For further information for patients and visitors to healthcare facilities on norovirus (‘winter vomiting bug’) and how to prevent the spread of infection see