Public Health England have revealed what people can do to avoid being diagnosed with the norovirus after the South East of England saw an increase in contractions this year.

The disease, which is also known as the winter vomiting bug, affects people of all ages and is transmitted by contact with hands or surfaces that the virus has landed on from an infected person.

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Levels of norovirus, which causes vomiting and diarrhoea, are expected to rise in the winter months and even though levels in the South East are higher than this time last year, this is not unprecedented as the illness varies from year to year.

To avoid getting the disease, PHE have suggested the following:

-To stay hydrated

-To take paracetamol

-To wash your hands

-To stay at home for two days after symptoms clear

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Dr Girija Dabke, public health consultant and lead for gastrointestinal illness for PHE South East, said: “The increase in norovirus that we’re seeing is common for this time of year and is in keeping with what we are seeing across the wider country.

“In recent weeks we have seen outbreaks in schools and care homes, as the infection is more widespread in settings where people are in close contact.

“While it usually only lasts from one to two days, it can be extremely unpleasant and is highly contagious.

The most effective way to stop it spreading is by washing your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after using the toilet, before eating, preparing food and staying away from work or school until you have been symptom-free for 48 hours.

“Alcohol or antibacterial hand sanitisers do not protect against this sickness bug.”

Public Health England also suggested that all contaminated surfaces should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected after an episode of illness.

Additionally, PHE have come up with the following to avoid getting the illness:

N - No visits to hospitals, care homes, and GP surgeries if you are suffering from symptoms of norovirus - send someone else to visit loved ones until you are better

O - Once you’ve been symptom-free for at least 48 hours, you’re safe to return to work, school or visit hospitals and care homes

R - Regularly wash your hands with soap and warm water, especially after using the toilet, and before eating or preparing food

O - Only handwashing will prevent the spread of norovirus - alcohol hand gels DON’T kill the virus

Dr Dabke added: “Most people will make a full recovery fairly quickly, but it is important to drink plenty of fluids during that time to prevent dehydration especially in the very young, and elderly.

“We advise not to visit GP surgeries and hospitals with symptoms, however, if you’re concerned, you should contact NHS 111 or talk to your GP by phone.”