UK-based health officials have warned the public of a spike in cases of norovirus infections; the virus is also known as the "winter vomiting bug", according to a Press Association report. The outbreak led to several hospital wards being closed, on Saturday, when several parts of the country witnessed heavy overnight frosts, due to risks of infection.
These include wards and beds in Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow, Warwick Hospital in Warwickshire and Bedford Hospital in Bedfordshire.
Noroviruses belong to the "Norovirus" genus and "Caliciviridae" family; these are a group of related, single-stranded RNA, non-enveloped viruses that cause gastroenteritis in human beings.
The disease is transmitted through contaminated food or by coming in contact with a patient already suffering from diarrhea. Its symptoms, according to the NHS, are forceful vomiting and excessively watery diarrhea. In addition, high temperatures, headaches, stomach cramps and aching limbs have also been reported. The symptoms usually last for 24 - 48 hours and the incubation period is 24 - 72 hours. People showing symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting are advised to stay indoors and contact their physicians.
Approximately two million Britons are affected by this virus every year.
Medical experts have confirmed there is no specific cure for the norovirus. They have, however, advised against dehydration and advocated improved general hygiene. While the virus is not usually fatal, particularly to reasonably healthy adults, children and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable.