Vomiting virus advice for Norfolk

NHS public health and infection prevention doctors are giving advice to the public on how to deal with a vomiting virus circulating widely in Norfolk currently.

The Norovirus stomach bug causes nausea and diarrhoea and is very easily spread from person to person. The spread of infection is easiest in places where group of people are in close proximity for reasonable amounts of time such as residential homes, schools, hospitals and workplaces.

The virus lasts around two days and no treatment is required, however, even after the symptoms have cleared up people may still carry the virus and infect others up to three days after their own symptoms have stopped. Norovirus in Norfolk is currently affecting residential homes, community hospitals, and patients at one ward at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

Dr Judith Richards, Director of Infection Prevention and Control at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, said: “It's very important that people who have had the virus, or been in contact with someone who has had it, take precautions to avoid spreading it. That means not going back to work or school until two days after the symptoms have stopped.

“People should also avoid visiting places like hospitals and residential homes if they have had the bug or been in contact with it over the past two days. Alcohol gel is effective against bacteria but not all viruses, therefore we are recommend that, as a matter of routine, all visitors should also wash their hands with hot water and soap when visiting our wards, and we would be very grateful if more visitors could follow that guidance.”

Dr John Battersby, Director of Public Health at NHS Norfolk added: “For the sake of patients and the wider community all visitors can help residential homes and hospitals by following the advice to stay away if they have been in contact with the tummy bug or have had it themselves within 48 hours, and always clean their hands with soap and water. Make hand-washing part of the routine of every visit, every time, all year round.”

What are Noroviruses?

Noroviruses are a group of viruses that are the most common cause of gastroenteritis (stomach bugs) in England and Wales, affecting up to one million people a year. Noroviruses has also been called ‘winter vomiting viruses’, ‘small round structured viruses’ or ‘Norwalk-like viruses’.

How does it spread?

The virus is easily transmitted from one person to another. It can be transmitted by contact with infected person; by consuming contaminated food or water or by contact with contaminated surfaces or objects.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of norovirus infection will begin around 12 to 48 hours after becoming infected. The illness is self-limiting and the symptoms will last for 12 to 60 hours. They will start with the sudden onset of nausea followed by projectile vomiting, and watery diarrhoea. Some people may have a raised temperature, headaches and aching limbs. Most people make a full recovery within one to two days, however some people (usually the very young or elderly) may become very dehydrated and require hospital treatment.

Why does norovirus often cause outbreaks?

Norovirus often causes outbreaks because it is easily spread from one person to another and the virus is able to survive in the environment for many days. Because there are many different strains of norovirus, and immunity is short-lived outbreaks tend to affect more than 50 per cent of susceptible people. Outbreaks usually tend to affect people who are in semi-closed environments such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools and on cruise ships.

How can these outbreaks be stopped?

Outbreaks can be difficult to control and long-lasting because norovirus is easily transmitted from one person to another and the virus can survive in the environment. The most effective way to respond to an outbreak is to disinfect contaminated areas and to institute good hygiene measures including hand-washing and provide advice on food handling and also isolating those infected for up to 48 hours after their symptoms have ceased.

How is norovirus treated?

There is no specific treatment for norovirus apart from letting the illness run its course. It is important to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.

If I’m suffering from norovirus, how can I prevent others from becoming infected?
Good hygiene is important in preventing others from becoming infected – this includes thorough hand washing before and after contact. Food preparation should also be avoided until three days after symptoms have gone altogether.

When can I visit if I’ve had the virus/been in contact with someone who has had the virus ?

If you have been free of the symptoms mentioned above from more than 48 hours or the person/s you have been in contact with has been free of the symptoms then it is acceptable to visit the hospital. If your symptoms are more recent than that we strongly recommend that you don’t visit. IF IN ANY DOUBT PLEASE DON’T VISIT.

Wednesday 16th of April 2008 10:00:33 AM