PEOPLE in Eastbourne are being urged to play their part in reducing the spread of germs and bugs.
NHS Direct is handling more than 4,000 calls a week from people suffering from suspected norovirus, also known as the winter vomiting disease.
The number seeking help for diarrhoea and vomiting has been rising in recent weeks as the virus begins to take hold.
The Health Protection Agency has announced 74 wards have had to be closed to help protect vulnerable patients since the summer.
Early warning signs from NHS statistics suggest the biggest cause of pressure on NHS services this winter will be the norovirus.
Outbreaks of the illness are common, particularly within contained environments such as hospitals, nursing homes and schools.
This is because the norovirus spreads very easily from person to person and can survive for several days.
All healthcare providers within Sussex are using a toolkit which helps them prevent, identify early and control norovirus outbreaks.
Health officials say the key to success is avoiding exposure to the virus as carriers can be both patients who are admitted and visitors.
Diana Grice, director of Public Health for NHS East Sussex Downs and Weald and NHS Hastings and Rother, said, “The norovirus is a particularly nasty bug which can easily create huge problems for our hospitals trying to cope with ill patients as well as for individual sufferers.
“Each of us can do our bit to stop the spread of the virus, by observing the basic rules of good hygiene.
“This helped reduce the impact of pandemic flu last year and will do the same for norovirus.”