BRITS face an "unpredictable epidemic" of messy norovirus from next month that could spread in "combination" with Covid.
Government scientists have raised the alarm that rates of the seasonal vomiting and tummy bug are way down this year – and could explode from September.
Because we have all been washing our hands more, wearing masks and staying at home, there has been a drop in colds, flu and other seasonal illnesses spreading.
So the boffins fear Britain is ripe for an unusually large outbreak because the "transmission dynamics" have changed.
They point to September and October as “particularly risky points” and flagged the grim norovirus as a particular cause for concern.
They had already warned that flu could be particularly bad this year – with more flu jabs rolled out in preparation – but now norovirus has been added to the list of concerns.
Noro’s most common symptoms include diarrhoea, vomiting and a high temperature.
BRACE FOR HARD WINTER
But scientists warn that could make spotting Covid cases “more difficult” if there is a big peak of both bugs.
An inner committee of the SAGE group of scientists that advises Downing Street have now warned ministers it could get so bad that pressures on the NHS would be "exacerbated”.
Last month top doc Chris Whitty warned the NHS to “brace” itself for a hard winter – with a flu surge likely.
He told a medical conference “the coming winter may well be quite a difficult one”.
On Covid he warned: “We know that winter and autumn favour respiratory viruses, and therefore it'd be very surprising if this particular highly transmissible respiratory virus was not also favoured.”
There is also a fear that such a big outbreak could trigger unknown problems that the NHS is not yet prepared for should there be “interactions between SARS-CoV-2 and other infections, both in combination and in competition”.
The warning came from the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, Operational sub-group, in a paper dated July 15.
Norovirus: What you can do to protect yourself
To reduce the risk of infection:
Pay close attention to hygiene. Wash your hands frequently, using soap and water.
Avoid close contact with people who are obviously sick.
If you or members of your household are ill:
- Try to keep those with symptoms away from others until the illness has subsided for at least 48 hours.
- Clean frequently. Disinfect any potentially contaminated surfaces or objects.
- Use a bleach-based household cleaner.
- Wash contaminated clothing or bedding using detergent at high temperature (60C).
- Do not allow anyone who is sick to prepare food for other people.
- Anyone who has symptoms should drink fluids and stay well hydrated. Consider adding rehydration salts to water. Eat plain foods (if you can manage eating).
- Seek medical attention if symptoms are not improving after 24 hours, or if concerned. This is especially important for young children and the elderly, as they are prone to rapid dehydration.
It reads: “During the past 18 months, diseases such as influenza, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) and norovirus, have been circulating much less in the population than in previous years.
“Their transmission dynamics have changed due to the measures to control COVID-19 and, as a result, there may be a period of unpredictable epidemics of these diseases before their normal seasonal patterns return.
“It is also possible there will be interactions between SARS-CoV-2 and other infections, both in combination and in competition. Any such effects are as yet unknown.”
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