HEALTH chiefs have issued advice to Wearsiders about the winter vomiting bug amid an expected rise in cases.
Experts from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) in the North East say reports of sickness and diarrhoea start to increase at this time of year.
To help stop the spread of the illness, they are urging sufferers to stay away from work and school until they have been free of symptoms for 48 hours.
People who have had the bug are also being urged to wait two days before visiting relatives in hospitals or care homes.
Most bouts of winter vomiting are caused by the norovirus infection, which affects up to one million people in the UK each year.
Dr Deb Wilson, from the HPA in the North East, said: “Norovirus is highly infectious and it can spread rapidly in semi-closed communities such as hospitals, care homes, sheltered housing accommodation and schools, which is why people should stay away from work or school until they have been free of symptoms for 48 hours.
“People feel very unwell when they have a norovirus infection, but it is not usually necessary to seek medical advice unless symptoms persist for more than a few days.
“They should stay at home and take plenty of fluids until they are free of symptoms for 48 hours. If the illness persists for more than a few days, they should contact their family doctor by phone or take advice from NHS Direct either by calling 0845 4647 or visiting www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk.
“If you live in County Durham or Darlington, you can also call the new 111 service.”
City Hospitals Sunderland, which runs Sunderland Royal Hospital, said it had so far seen fewer cases of norovirus compared to recent years.
A spokesman said: “City Hospitals Sunderland has not seen a rise in patients presenting with norovirus symptoms this winter. In fact, we are currently experiencing less than we have seen in recent years.”
There is no treatment for norovirus – sufferers should let the illness run its course. Most people make a full recovery within one or two days.
The main symptom of the illness is vomiting, which can be projectile, and is sometimes accompanied by diarrhoea. Some people may have a raised temperature, headaches and aching limbs.