The request is part of the Trusts normal winter plans and is designed to help keep ‘winter vomiting’ or norovirus away from vulnerable patients and staff who could pass it on. Symptoms of norovirus include diarrhoea and vomiting and, just like flu, the virus can seriously affect vulnerable patients.
Diseases such as noroviruses can be exacerbated by cold weather, particularly in people who are already ill or who have a long term condition.
These stomach bugs are highly contagious and can spread rapidly anywhere that people are gathered, such as schools or offices. Hospitals are public buildings with hundreds (or thousands) of visitors every day. That is why the NHS asks people to think carefully before visiting hospitals if they or anyone in their family has even mild symptoms of stomach upset.
Good hand hygiene can help to limit the spread of the infection and there are some simple steps that the public can take to help stop a norovirus spreading:
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water, particularly after using the toilet, and before preparing food. If you’re in an NHS facility pay attention to hand hygiene notices such as using hand gel upon entering and leaving a ward.
- Disinfect any surfaces or objects that could be contaminated with a norovirus. It is best to use a bleach-based household cleaner. Always follow the instructions on the cleaning product.
- Flush away any infected faeces or vomit in the toilet. You should also keep the surrounding toilet area clean and hygienic.
- Wash any clothing, or linens, which could have become contaminated with a norovirus. Washing with hot, soapy water will help to ensure that the virus is killed.
- Although people usually recover without treatment in 24-72 hours, it is important to stay away from work, school, college or any social gatherings until you have been free of symptoms for at least 48 hours.
If you have norovirus, the best thing you can do is rest, and take plenty of non-caffeinated drinks to avoid dehydration.
Don’t visit your GP surgery or local A&E Unit. You should recover naturally without any specific treatment.
Ann-Marie Cannaby, Chief Nurse and Operating Officer at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust said: “Although we have good infection prevention and control measures within the hospital, it’s important that we take every opportunity to reduce any potential risk to patients and staff.”
Dawn Wardell, Director of Nursing, George Eliot Hospital said: “Asking visitors to think carefully about whether they need to come into hospital if they have experienced diarrhoea, vomiting or flu-like symptoms is just one of the ways the Trust manages to keep the number of cases of norovirus down at our hospitals.”
Helen Walton, Director of Nursing, South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust said: “We know that sometimes visitors feel they must take every opportunity to visit sick friends or relatives, however, if they themselves have been unwell, they could be putting others at risk so it is best to stay at home.”
Martin Lee, Medical Director at the Arden Cluster, said: “If you are worried about prolonged symptoms, you can contact NHS Direct on www.nhs.uk, or 0845 4647, or ring your GP. They will be able to provide advice for people who are at greater risk from dehydration from diarrhoea and vomiting, such as children under the age of five or the elderly.”
West Midlands Health Protection Agency (HPA) Consultant Dr Rob Carr said:
“We know from past experience that we can expect to see more outbreaks of norovirus infection as winter approaches.
“Norovirus is difficult to contain, but there are things that people can do to protect themselves and others from the worst effects of the infection.”
“In the vast majority of cases there is no benefit in someone with norovirus being in hospital. People with the infection should stay at home, ensure that their personal hygiene is good, particularly hand-washing, and avoid contact with others where possible.”
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Notes to Editors
1. Winter vomiting is the term that has been used to cover the Noroviruses such as the Norwalk virus. Transmission can occur through contact with an infected person, through contact with surfaces or objects that are contaminated with the virus, or by eating contaminated food or water.
As there is a 15-48 hour incubation period, it can be difficult to detect in the early stages before diarrhoea and vomiting actually starts. Typically, the illness can last between 12 to 60 hours. There is also a 48-hour period following the last physical signs of symptoms where someone could still be infectious.
There are many types of norovirus, and it is possible for infection to occur several times. This is because after getting the illness immunity to the virus only lasts for 14 weeks.
2. For more information about norovirus, visit: http://www.hpa.org.uk/Topics/InfectiousDiseases/InfectionsAZ/Norovirus/
3. For more information on winter health, visit the NHS Choices website at www.nhs.uk.