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Cases of winter norovirus “double”

Nearly three million people may have contracted the norovirus infection over the winter, new figures suggest.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) said that laboratory reports of the pathogen in England and Wales in the last quarter of 2007 had doubled compared with the same period of 2006.

It said there were 1,922 reports of the bug from September to December, against 935 cases the year before

The HPA claims laboratory statistics reflect “a tiny fraction” of all cases, estimating that for every infection, another 1,500 go unreported. This equates to around 2.9 million people affected so far.

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Lincoln County Hospital, Grantham and District Hospital and Boston’s Pilgrim Hospital have all been placed on red alert, while other sites have also experienced problems.

George Briggs, general manager for emergency care for Grantham, Lincoln and Louth, said: “We have had a 20% increase in the number of people being referred to us by GPs with illnesses. We have had some with cold and flu and we have had some with the norovirus.

“We expect an increase in the winter, we always do, hence we put some beds to one side. We didn’t expect a 20% increase, I have to say.”

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