Winter of discontent

Merton’s Environmental Health Officers are supporting the health advice given by local NHS organisations following an increase in cases of diarrhoea and vomiting in the borough, which is probably caused by Winter Vomiting Disease.

They have received a number of calls from concerned residents about the illness which is also known as norovirus. Winter Vomiting Disease is a brief, mild illness, which usually lasts for one to three days. Symptoms include:
– Nausea (feeling sick)
– Sudden onset of vomiting (often sudden and projectile)
– Diarrhoea
– Stomach pains/cramps
– Headaches
– Fever
– Tiredness

The virus is easily spread from one person to another. It can be caught by contact with an infected person, by consuming contaminated food or water, or by contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. People remain infectious for up to 48 hours after the symptoms have finished.

Sutton and Merton Primary Care Trust (PCT) and Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust have both observed an increase in cases of this virus, which is a type of gastro-enteritis that occurs mainly in the winter months and affects approximately 600,000 to 1 million people in the UK each year.

The advice is to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration and to let the illness run its course. However, if people feel particularly unwell or if symptoms last for more than 48 hours see a local GP.

Environmental Health Officers recommend chlorine (bleach) based products for cleaning surfaces within toilet facilities. People should not assume products that kill bacteria also kill viruses. Look for products that kill ‘all known germs’ rather than those which are advertised as a bacteriocides.

They also recommend thorough hand washing with soap and warm water after using toilets, especially if the toilets are shared such as at work or in the local shopping centre. Soap does kill the virus.

More information about Winter Vomiting Disease can be found on the Health Protection Agency website at

The local NHS communications team can be contacted on 020 8296 2406.

Claire Bartlett
Senior Press & PR Officer
London Borough of Merton
020 8545 3327