AN ELDERLY nursing home resident who caught the winter vomiting bug died, according to a new report from the country's disease watchdog.
The report, which highlighted the marked upsurge in cases this winter, said that in the last three months of 2012, people were infected with the bug in 38 public and private nursing homes, 31 residential institutions and in 25 hospitals.
There were 1,956 reported cases of the bug, which causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea, although the real numbers ran to several thousand a week, the report of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre said.
The watchdog's public health specialists, led by Dr Paul McKeown, said that given the the numbers of long-stay units affected it is likely that a significant number of vulnerable patients have been affected.
"One of these patients is known to have died," they said.
"It is in patients whose vital reserves are low that the illness is most likely to become a terminal factor. In the first four weeks of 2013 the number of reported cases has remained high."
The report suggested some individuals with a certain genetic profiles appear to have innate resistance to infection. The virus is very resilient and resistant to household disinfectants and low temperature washing.
The report said: "Noroviruses produce upsurges with regularity; the most recent major upsurge was in 2002-3.
"During that epidemic (the most severe in recent memory) the responsible circulating strain appears to have had a novel surface antigen, effectively leaving the entire population susceptible."
" Conversely, the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons were particularly mild from the perspective of norovirus activity. "
From December 2000 to November 2001 it was estimated that there were about 60,000 episodes of gastroenteritis each week.