NO ONE wants to feel unwell at the start of a new year – unless it is from eating too much Christmas food.

But unfortunately, winter bugs and colds are all too common.

Norovirus, or the “winter vomiting bug”, is easily spread in public places such as hospitals, nursing homes and schools.

The virus caused Musgrove Park Hospital to place restrictions to visitors on one of it’s wards last week due to an outbreak. But the virus can be easily spread at home, too.

According to the NHS website, the three main ways the virus is spread is through close contact with someone infected, touching contaminated surfaces or objects, or eating contaminated food.

Dr Bharat Pankhania, consultant for communicable disease control, says the easiest, and most important way to stay healthy is to wash your hands often.

Not only is it important to wash your hands properly, it is also important to dry them properly, as Dr Pankhania says the virus can thrive on moist hands.

He said: “Our priority at any time is to maintain good infection control. It is very simple – wash your hands properly.

“It is also very important not to introduce the infection in a sensitive area, like hospitals or anywhere food is prepared.

“People are more confined indoors in warm conditions in winter; the virus can live in that environment for several days ands. “It takes a very low dose to get infected, that is the perfect storm for an infected person, it is very easy to lose control.”

Dr Pankhania says that the statistics on levels of infection rely on people self-reporting, so he believes the levels always underestimate how bad an outbreak can be.

The NHS website also says to stay off work or school until 48 hours after the symptoms have passed.

It also warns that using alcohol gels will not kill the virus, and it should not be used as a substitute for soap and warm water.