Sickness virus stuns UK

AS if the fierce storms and flooding were not enough to cope with,Britainis also in the grip of a winter vomiting virus.

The epidemic is already forcing hospital wards to shut as cases total the highest in five years.

Thousands have already been struck down by the bug, which has arrived earlier than usual this year, and experts warn the problem will get worse during the winter months.

To date, there have been more than 50 outbreaks at NHS Trusts across the country, with at least 45 hospitals closing wards for deep-cleaning purposes.

The bug has also struck down many front-line health workers, leaving departments badly under-staffed.

Figures from the Health Protection Agency are said to show that the number of confirmed reports of the virus has risen by 52%.

A confirmed case counts as one where laboratories have positively identified the bug in samples sent by hospitals or GPs.

There have been nearly 2,000 of these since July, compared with 1,301 cases by this time last year.

But because many victims do not report their symptoms to doctors, the numbers are said to be “the tip of the iceberg”.

Professor Hugh Pennington, from theUniversityofAberdeen, told the Daily Mail: “No one can predict what it’s going to do, except that we are going to have a reasonably hard time of it, I am sure. It would be grossly optimistic to suggest otherwise.”

He added: “It’s a nightmare because wards are closed; it’s a nightmare because essential staff are off. And it’s obviously a nightmare for any patients in hospital, who get it who are already pretty sick.”

Norovirus is an extremely-contagious, vomiting bug, which thrives in locations where large numbers of people gather, such as schools and hospitals.

It is often spread by touching the same doors and hand-rails as someone with the virus.

Children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to the virus, and are usually the majority of those admitted to hospital.

And although it is known as the “winter vomiting bug”, it can actually be caught all year round.

Experts believe cases are significantly higher in winter because people spend more time together indoors

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