Find out about viral gastroenteritis and Norovirus, which is the most common cause of diarrhoea and vomiting in England and Wales.
In the past, noroviruses have also been called ‘winter vomiting viruses’, ‘small round structured viruses’ or ‘Norwalk-like viruses’.
What is Viral Gastroenteritis?
Many different viruses can cause gastroenteritis, including rotaviruses, adenoviruses, caliciviruses, astroviruses, Norwalk virus, and a group of Noroviruses.
Viral gastroenteritis is not caused by bacteria (such as Salmonella or Escherichia coli) or parasites (such as Giardia), or by medications or other medical conditions, although the symptoms may be similar.
Most outbreaks occur in the winter months or early spring, but can occur throughout the year. Only a small number of the viruses are needed to cause infection.
What are the Symptoms?
Viral Gastroenteritis is a common cause of diarrhoea and vomiting. Other symptoms may include nausea, stomach cramps, fever, headache and muscle aches.
Seek advice from your doctor of NHS Direct if you become concerned.
Outbreaks, most commonly caused by Norovirus, can occur in:
Residential Care and Nursing facilities
Hospital and Medical Facilities
Childcare centres and nurseries
Restaurants and hotels
It takes about 15 to 48 hours for symptoms to develop and the illness may last a day or two. The illness causes embarrassment and disrupts normal activities, and can be serious in the very young or the very old.
However, it generally settles without further problems, and other than maintaining a good fluid intake there is no specific treatment, as viruses do not respond to antibiotics.
Those working in the food industry must report symptoms to their employer.
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