Norovirus Outbreak Surge in English Care Homes

Peter Russell

March 04, 2022

A rise in the number of enteric virus (EV) outbreaks in England in recent weeks has been reported by the UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA).

It said that while the total number of reported outbreaks in the 2 weeks between February 7 and February 20 was 34% lower than the 5-season average, EV outbreaks increased by 30% during this period compared with the previous 2 weeks.

The increase was initially seen in educational settings, particularly in nursery and childcare facilities, with 48% more incidents reported to the UKHSA than would be expected.

More recently, monitoring has shown a 45% rise in care homes, according to the latest  National norovirus and rotavirus bulletin

Norovirus Outbreaks Could Spread to Hospitals

Reports of norovirus outbreaks in care homes rose from 24 in the week beginning February 7, to 40 in the week commencing February 14. Although the number was below average pre-pandemic levels, the UKHSA warned that the increase was likely to continue, and could lead to an increase in hospital outbreaks.

During the reporting period, suspected and confirmed norovirus outbreaks in hospitals were 79% lower than the 5-season average.

Of the 238 norovirus positive samples characterised this season, 88% were genogroup 2, 8% genogroup 1, and 4% were mixed.

Post-COVID Rise

Norovirus activity began to increase from week 25 of 2021, according to the UKHSA.

Prof Saheer Gharbia, from the UKHSA's Gastrointestinal Pathogens and Food Safety Directorate, said that norovirus "has been at lower levels than normal throughout the pandemic, but as people have begun to mix more, the numbers of outbreaks have started to increase again".

She added: "Please avoid visiting elderly relatives if you are unwell – particularly if they are in a care home or hospital."

Reports of rotavirus remained lower throughout the 2020 to 2021 season than before the pandemic, with the trend continuing into the 2021 to 2022 season.

There were 70 laboratory confirmed reports of rotavirus between February 7 and February 20, which was 50% lower than the 5-season average.

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