Do your bit to battle flu

HEALTH chiefs have urged people to do all they can to stay clear of common seasonal infections.

During the autumn and winter, viruses like colds, flu and norovirus are more common, but frequent hand washing and disposing of used tissues can be the most effective way to help prevent the spread.

Norovirus, also known as winter vomiting disease, is highly infectious and can cause an unpleasant but generally short-lived illness. The main symptoms are vomiting and diarrhoea and outbreaks are common in hospitals, nursing homes, schools and cruise ships. There is no treatment, however it is important to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, especially in the very young or elderly.

Dr Tricia Cresswell, from the Health Protection Agency in the North East, said: “One of the best ways to protect against norovirus infection is by practising good hand hygiene.

“This includes thorough hand washing with hot water and soap before eating and at other appropriate times such as after visiting the toilet.

“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 should also wash their hands thoroughly when looking after someone who is ill and preparing food should be avoided until 48 hours after symptoms have disappeared.

If the norovirus illness persists for more than a few days, they should phone their family doctor or take advice from NHS Direct on 0845 4647.