WARDS have been closed after an outbreak of the winter vomiting bug at Royal Lancaster Infirmary.

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust is restricting visiting to the site after norovirus hit the hospital.

Five wards have been affected by the highly contagious infection which affects up to a million people in the UK each year.

Staff said while the situation was improving, it was not doing so as quickly as expected.

Visiting to wards 20, 21, 36, 37, and the Acute Medical Unit have been restricted.

Any members of the public who visit have been asked to ensure they wash their hands with soap and water before entering the hospital.

Unless it is an emergency, no member of the public should come to the hospital at all if they have been sick or had diarrhoea in the last 72 hours or been in close contact with someone who has.

Chief operating officer Juliet Walters said: “While we understand that this will cause patients and members of the public some frustration, this measure will allow us to help prevent the spread of the infection and ensure safe patient care.

“Our staff are working extremely hard to deal with this outbreak quickly and this decision will help us return services to normal as soon as possible.

“This decision may seem drastic but these precautions are to protect our patients and staff and we would appreciate the co-operation of the public.”

The norovirus illness does not last long and people usually recover between 12 and 60 hours without treatment other than rest and lots of fluids. It is found in the community and is easily transmitted. The bug affects schools, workplaces and other areas where groups of people are in close proximity, such as hospitals.

The elderly and young can be more vulnerable to the infection and anyone with concerns should call NHS Direct on 0845-4647.