Nicknamed the ‘winter vomiting disease’ norovirus becomes more active during the winter months. It can spread quickly in close-knit areas like hospitals, schools, nursing and residential homes.
That is why hospital staff are reminding anyone who has nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea not to visit hospital until they have been completely symptom-free for at least 48 hours. If they visit before then, it could mean that they unwittingly pass their norovirus onto hospital patients and staff.
Dr Kenneth Agwuh, Director of Infection, Prevention & Control at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The winter months are here again, notable for its marked increase in norovirus infection. This infection is a very contagious virus that can infect anyone, with extremely worrying consequences for patients already ill in hospital. That’s why it is so important not to visit until you have been symptom-free for at least a couple of days. An outbreak may mean we have to restrict admissions and visitors to wards to contain the virus.”
Although very unpleasant, norovirus usually clears up in one or two days and most people can care for themselves with paracetamol and plenty of fluids. Symptoms include the sudden onset of projectile vomiting, watery diarrhoea, and some people may also experience headaches, mild temperature and stomach cramps.
Mrs Mary Robson, aged 72 from Doncaster, had norovirus last year and although very poorly she managed the condition at home.
Mary said: “It came on suddenly. I was being sick, with bad diarrhoea and stomach pains. I started to get worried because it wasn’t getting any better. My daughter came over and rung the GP surgery. They told us that there was a bug going round and best thing to do was to keep warm, drink plenty of fluids and it should clear up in a couple of days. Thank fully it did. I was worried that my daughter would get it too but she kept washing her hands and must have worked because she didn’t get it.”
Norovirus is very contagious and can be spread through contact with an infected person, by eating or drinking contaminated food or water, or by contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. Washing your hands regularly is very successful in protecting against the virus especially before meals and after visiting the toilet.
Staff are saying to patients and visitors:
· Don’t come to hospital if you have signs of a stomach upset.
· Always wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet and before handling food.
· Wait at least 48 hours after being symptom free before visiting hospital.
Following these simple yet very effective steps, can help keep patients safe and norovirus out of hospitals.