People are being urged to wash their hands to help prevent the norovirus putting a dampener on festive celebrations.

The NHS has warned that the winter vomiting bug, Norovirus, has already made its seasonal appearance in Essex and is urging people to maintain tiptop cleanliness to minimise its spread.

Symptoms can begin suddenly and may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach-cramps, chills and muscle aches which tend to last for around 24 hours, although the bug may last for up to 48 hours in the body.

Anyone having trouble keeping fluids down or who believes any medication they are taking is being compromised can telephone their own GP or NHS Direct for advice on 0845 4647.

People are reminded to frequently wash hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after toilet visits and before eating or preparing food.

Sharing eating utensils and drinking containers should be avoided.