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Down chunder: Norovirus which has struck down over a million in UK came from Australia

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So far this season more than 1.19 million across England and Wales have had sickness, diarrhoea and cramps because of the norovirus

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Aussie invader: The virus which came over from Oz
Aussie invader: The virus which came over from Oz

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The winter vomiting bug that has hit more than a million people started in Australia, it was revealed today.

So far this season more than 1.19 million across England and Wales have had sickness, diarrhoea and cramps because of the norovirus.

Now a new variant – Sydney 2012 – has been tracked down 10,000 miles away.

It has become the “dominant strain”, causing the majority of recent cases here. It has also hit France, New Zealand and Japan.

Today the Health Protection Agency said there have been 4,140 confirmed cases of norovirus this winter – but for every reported one, around 288 are not flagged up.

And most cases are seen between January and March.

Dr David Brown, director of Virology Reference Department at the HPA, said the ­symptoms usually last around two days.

He said of the new virus – first identified in Sydney in March: “Noroviruses mutate rapidly and new strains emerge constantly.

“At the start of the season it is normal for outbreaks to be caused by a range of different strains.

"However, as the season progresses particular strains are more successful and become dominant.

“The emergence of a new strain does not mean that it causes more serious illness.

“There is no specific treatment for norovirus infection other than to let the illness take its course, with symptoms usually lasting around two days. Keeping hydrated is very important and you can take over-the-counter medicines to relieve headaches and aches and pains.”

Norovirus is highly contagious and can be transmitted through contact with an infected person or contaminated surfaces and objects.

It can spread rapidly in closed environments such as hospitals, schools and nursing homes.

Symptoms include sudden vomiting, diarrhoea, or both, a temperature, headache and stomach cramps. The bug usually goes away within a few days.

Although people can suffer from norovirus at any time of the year, activity increases in the winter months, with most cases seen between January and March.

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