NHS Direct has been flooded with calls from people suffering from suspected norovirus.
Figures show the service is handling more than 4,000 calls every week from people trying to cope with diarrhoea and vomiting.
The number has risen in the past weeks as the virus tightens its grip on Britain.
NHS Direct received 17,700 calls last month from people suffering with sickness and diarrhoea – often related to norovirus.
It is the highest number of calls per month since March and is in line with expectations for the time of year.
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has analysed the data for NHS Direct’s call volume and found it is consistently high enough to suggest the “beginning and continuation of periods of norovirus activity nationally”.
Separate data from the HPA shows there have been 91 suspected outbreaks of norovirus in hospitals since the summer, 74 of which have led to ward closures.
The HPA said the number of reports from hospitals is rising but is in line with expectations.
Most people with the bug will make a full recovery within two to three days and are advised to stay at home, take paracetamol to relieve fever and drink plenty of water to replace lost fluids.
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“The Annual Infection Prevention & Control Conference has included a workshop on the “Transition from Community to Acute – Norovirus and alert conditions.” This information is just in time to keep us updated” – Carl Curtis, Southwark
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