Unseasonal increase in norovirus


Norovirus, one of the most common causes of gastroenteritis, is currently on the increase in Ireland. This could lead to an increase in demand on healthcare facilities and staff. This period of higher levels of norovirus could continue for some weeks.

Norovirus levels are usually high between December and April, but there has been an unseasonal increase in the last few weeks that has also been seen in Europe and the US.

Key messages for health and care professionals:

  • Maintain a high index of suspicion - assume all vomitus is infectious, irrespective of cause
  • When two or more people in the same building/area/room/group develop vomiting within a day or so, there is a high likelihood that it is norovirus
  • Clean and decontaminate soiled areas immediately
  • Strict attention to routine hygiene/precautions and implementation of heightened cleaning/disinfection during outbreaks
  • Cohort ill patients to prevent further transmission
  • Exclude ill staff
  • Involve IPC colleagues at the earliest stage

Norovirus guidance for healthcare settings is available on the HPSC website:

Key messages for the public:

It's not always possible to avoid getting norovirus, but following the advice below can help stop the virus spreading.

  • Stay off work or school until at least 48 hours after the symptoms have passed. You should also avoid visiting anyone in hospital during this time.
  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water. Do not rely on alcohol hand gels, as they do not kill the virus.
  • Disinfect any surfaces or objects that could be contaminated. It's best to use a bleach-based household cleaner.
  • Wash any items of clothing or bedding that could have become contaminated separately on a hot wash to ensure the virus is killed.
  • Don't share towels and flannels.
  • Flush away any infected poo or vomit in the toilet and clean the surrounding area.
  • Avoid eating raw, unwashed produce.

For more information on symptoms, treatment and prevention of norovirus visit https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/norovirus/.