Handwashing helps combat Norovirus
Members of the public are being reminded that washing your hands with hot, soapy water is the best way to protect yourself from Norovirus, according to experts at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.
The Norovirus stomach bug causes nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting and is very easily spread from person to person. The spread of infection is easiest in places where groups of people are in close proximity for reasonable amounts of time such as residential homes, schools, hospitals and workplaces. Norovirus is the most common cause of infectious gastroenteritis (diarrhoea and vomiting) in England and Wales.
The symptoms last around two days and no specific treatment is required apart from rehydration. However, even after the symptoms have cleared up people may still carry the virus and infect others and so good hygiene is important at all times.
Dr Ngozi Elumogo, Director of Infection Prevention and Control at NNUH, says: It is that time of year where we see Norovirus circulating in the community and our advice is to wash your hands as a matter of routine with hot, soapy water. Hand sanitisers and alcohol gel will work against some bacteria and flu viruses but they will not protect you against Norovirus.
This winter, we will be removing hand sanitisers from ward areas during Norovirus outbreaks and asking people to wash their hands instead.
To keep Norovirus out of hospitals, it is important that people do not visit patients if they have been ill with a stomach bug in the past few days or in close contact with someone who has had sickness or diarrhoea.
Norovirus is circulating in the local community at the moment and three wards of the 27 wards at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital are closed due to the virus.
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 Im 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 Ive 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 dont visit. IF IN ANY DOUBT PLEASE DON’T VISIT.