Winter vomiting virus strikes late

Although winter could be finally loosening its grip, the vomiting virus seems to be flourishing.

“It could be a question of a new strain spreading over the country,” said Kjell-Olof Hedlund at the Institute for Infectious Disease Control (SMI).

The infectious stomach bug is caused by the so called norovirus. It usually strikes in the winter when our immune systems are running low and we’re indoors a lot. This winter, there has been an unusually low number of cases and symptoms have been relatively mild.

Incidence of the illness usually tail off during March, but during the last few weeks case have actually been on the rise according to health services throughout the country. These recent cases have also seen the classic symptoms: violent vomiting and headaches, followed by diarrhoea.

Most victims don’t seek medical care, so it’s difficult to get a full picture of progress of the virus outside the health service.

Kjell-Olof Hedlund, chief microbiologist at the SMI, is investigating whether the latest outbreak can be due to a new strain of the virus. He wants to warn hospitals and call for awareness that the norovirus is spreading unusually late this year.

“Hospitals should be vigilant and isolate the first patients to be struck to prevent further infection,” Hedlund told TT.

For the general public, the advice is the same as ever – be careful with hand hygiene. If you are affected, stay home for two days after the symptoms have cleared up.

It’s hard to say how the infection will develop from now.

“My guess is that it will decrease dramatically when the spring comes, but in 2002 we practically had a summer season of norovirus as well in Europe, so one can never be sure,” said Hedlund.