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Norovirus is the most common cause of infectious gastroenteritis (diarrhoea & vomiting) in England and Wales and is easily spread from one person to another. 

If norovirus was to affect pupils and/or staff in your school it may lead to the school's closure. A school closure has a knock on effect on the parents/carers who are key workers in other areas of the public sector e.g. Health Services, therefore, undermining crucial service delivery.

Prevention of a Norovirus outbreak

The same principles apply as for other diseases involving vomiting and/or diarrhoea:

Good hygiene – to avoid cases of diarrhoea and/or vomiting occurring in school it is important that meticulous attention is paid to hand hygiene and effective cleaning of surfaces and floors. Vomiting causes widespread contamination of the surrounding area through spraying of particles too small to be seen by the naked eye. Anything potentially contaminated needs thorough cleaning with hot soapy water.

  • Pupils, staff and visitors should have facilities to wash their hands thoroughly with liquid soap applied from a dispenser and running warm water after every visit to the toilet and before handling or eating food, and should dry them on disposable paper towels.
  • Young children may need supervision to ensure that adequate hand washing takes place. An adequate supply of toilet paper, liquid soap and paper towels should be available in school toilets at all times.
  • Toilet bowls, seats and flush handles along with any other surfaces that may have been touched by contaminated hands should be disinfected daily. A simple solution of a disinfectant at the correct dilution is all that is required.
  • The wash hand basins in toilet blocks should not be used for drinking water and the use of communal drinking fountains should be discontinued.

The headteacher should be made aware of the occurrence of two or more cases of diarrhoea or vomitting.

About Norovirus or Winter Vomiting Disease

Norovirus is the most common cause of infectious gastroenteritis (diarrhoea & vomiting) in England and Wales and is easily spread from one person to another, with it being able to survive in the environment for many days. In addition, outbreaks can be difficult to control and long-lasting. As there are many different strains of norovirus, and immunity is short-lived, outbreaks tend to affect more than 50% of susceptible people. Any semi-closed environment where large numbers of people congregate for periods of several days (e.g. schools, care homes, hospitals) provides an ideal environment for the spread of the disease. Norovirus is highly contagious.

Incubation period

12 to 48 hours


The first sign is usually a sudden onset of nausea followed by projectile vomiting and watery diarrhoea. Some people may have a raised temperature, headaches and aching limbs. Most people will make a full recovery within 1-2 days. Pupil, staff or visitors should be symptom free for 48 hours before returning to the school.


Noroviruses are spread by:

  • contact with contaminated surfaces,
  • infected people and through consumption of contaminated foods or water.

The prevention of further spread is important

How to deal with a Norovirus outbreak

It is important that any outbreak is responded to quickly. If you have any concerns, please contact Public Health England on for further advice and help. Please also contact your Area Education Officer via the KCC Contact Centre on 08458 247 247.

Exclusion periods

Those who have been infected should be excluded for up to 48 hours after their symptoms have ceased.


Like all viral infections, norovirus does not respond to treatment with antibiotics. There is no specific treatment for norovirus apart from letting the illness run its course. It is important to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.

Other information

The following website provides games and learning resources to help young people learn about microbes and hygiene: