The NHS is calling on the public to stay at home if they have norovirus to avoid passing it on, as hospitals in England have been forced to close more than 1,100 hospital beds over the last week. 

Top medics are concerned about the spread of the winter vomiting bug this year and the impact it is having on hospitals.

They are therefore urging those who catch the virus not to go back to work or school until at least 48 hours after symptoms pass, to avoid passing it on to others.

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National surveillance data from Public Health England (PHE) showed that the number of positive norovirus laboratory reports during the two weeks in the middle of November was 28 percent higher than the average for the same period in the previous five years.

Almost double the number of hospital beds have been closed every day over the last week compared with the same time last year, in a bid to stop the spread of diarrhoea and vomiting to more patients.

The NHS has responded by launching a new social media campaign to help people avoid catching the bug and recognise and deal with the symptoms of norovirus at home if they are unlucky enough to get infected.

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Health bosses are also encouraging those who need it to seek help from the 111 phone and online service rather than going to hospital or their GP, where they risk infecting others.

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS medical director, said: "It’s a really unpleasant illness to catch, but for the vast majority of people it will usually pass in a couple of days, and self-treating at home is the best way to help yourself and avoid putting others at risk."

Norovirus is one of the most common stomach bugs in the UK.

Infections rarely require medical treatment and most people will recover from it within a few days.

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It is, however, highly contagious, and is easily passed on at home, at hospital, or in the local community, and those who have been infected remain carriers for some time.

The main symptoms of the disease are typically a sudden sick feel, projectile vomiting and watery diarrhoea.