Norovirus: When to Return to Work


What is norovirus?

Norovirus, or the ‘winter vomiting bug’, is a stomach bug which causes vomiting and diarrhoea. Generally, there is a spike in norovirus cases in November and December, and it is estimated that the norovirus affects between 600,000 and a million people in the UK every single year. If you’re unfortunate enough to have been affected by this virus, you’re likely to experience nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea and you may also be suffering from a high temperature, headache or aching limbs. Luckily, this winter bug normally clears up on its own within a couple of days. But what is the policy around when you should go back to work, when are you most infectious and how long should you actually stay away?

In what industries is norovirus most common?

This viral gastroenteritis spreads easily and can be caught through close contact with someone who is affected, touching your mouth after touching contaminated surfaces or by eating food that has been handled by someone who is affected. Because of this, some industries are much more high-risk when it comes to spreading this virus around. These workplaces include:

  • Restaurants/areas where food is prepared
  • Schools and nurseries
  • Hospitals
  • Cruise ships
  • Offices, or any space where people are in close contact indoors

When to return to work after having norovirus

With rising rates of presenteeism in the UK, more and more of us are going into work when we are ill. However, by going into work not only do you make it more difficult for yourself to recover, but you’re highly infectious and therefore are likely to affect other staff members; negatively impacting productivity further. You should only return to work 48 hours after the vomiting and diarrhoea have stopped. Don’t be tempted to return sooner, as even if the symptoms of norovirus have subsided, you’re likely to be infections still, putting others at high risk of contracting the virus.

Preventing the spread of norovirus

As well as staying away from the place of work, there are good habits we can get into at work to prevent the spread of norovirus. The key thing here is hand washing; frequent hand washing with soap and warm water is imperative to preventing the spread of disease. Make sure to wash your hands in the following situations:

  • After using/cleaning the toilet
  • After being near anyone who currently has a virus
  • After touching potentially contaminated surfaces
  • Before handling, serving or consuming food or drink

If you’ve been suffering from vomiting and diarrhoea, or dehydration and a high fever for more than a couple of days, you may have to be seen by a GP in order to give you some further advice. Get in touch to arrange a same-day appointment with one of our private GPs today.

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