Winter warning over stomach bug
With wintry weather now with us a hospital matron at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital is warning the public to take care when it comes to the inevitable outbreak of a winter stomach bug.
The Norovirus infection, also known as gastroenteritis or winter vomiting virus, affects up to one million people in the UK every year. It is easily spread, affects people with diarrhoea and vomiting for around 24 – 48 hours. The bug has no long-lasting effects and the main risk it represents is one of dehydration.
The Norovirus infection affects people of all ages. Outbreaks of Norovirus are often reported in semi-closed institutions such as schools, residential/nursing homes, hospitals, hotels and cruise ships. Anywhere that large numbers of people congregate for periods of several days provide an ideal environment for the spread of the disease.
The hospital has launched a new website www.nnuh.nhs.uk/dept/norovirus to help provide the public with information about the virus. The bug can have a major impact on hospitals as visitors often inadvertently bring it in with them and pass it to patients.
Matron Sian Watkins said: “We would urge that no-one should visit hospital if they have the stomach bug or have been in contact with someone who's had the bug in the previous three days. Every winter we get visitors coming to the wards who are actually suffering from diarrhoea and vomiting, they are still contagious and the virus does spread very easily.
“We do understand the desire to visit loved ones but they could be putting them and other patients at risk as this bug does spread very easily. We try very hard to limit the spread but we also need the public to help us. Imagine how a patient would they feel if someone knowingly visited them while suffering from it.”
In addition, everyone coming on to a hospital ward should wash their hands with hot, soapy water when entering and leaving the ward. Alcohol gels are also available at ward entrances and exits. Alcohol gel helps beat bacteria but not viruses. Viruses are best tackled by thorough handwashing with hot, soapy water.