Official figures show that cases are 64 per cent higher than this time last year, striking early with cases running at a level normally seen about a month later in the season.

Health Protection Agency calculations show that around 666,144 people have fallen ill already, with laboratory tests confirming norovirus in 2,313 cases up until December 2nd, compared with 1,412 cases at the same point last year reports The Telegraph.

As most samples sent for analysis come from care homes and hospitals, officials work on a ratio of one laboratory case probably means there are a further 288 cases among people who do not seek medical treatment and are not tested.

It is not known why the norovirus season has begun early this year and if the poor summer weather may have played a role.

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