Winter vomiting bug closes hospital ward - visitors reminded to stay away

AN outbreak of the winter vomiting bug has been reported at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary.

Seven patients on ward 34 are said to be suffering from Norovirus.

Hospital officials are now appealing for members of the public who have been ill not to visit.

They say anyone who has suffered from, or been in contact with someone who has suffered from diarrhoea or vomiting should stay away.

Visitors and patients should not visit the hospital unless their condition is life-threatening, said officials.

Even if they have been in contact with someone showing symptoms, they are advised to stay away, they said.

Norovirus is the most frequent cause of infectious gastroenteritis in England and Wales and typical symptoms are vomiting and diarrhoea.

People suffering will feel very unwell initially but will usually improve quickly as the symptoms settle, said the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust (UHMBT).

“If someone suspects they have Norovirus they should ensure they do not visit hospitals, schools or care homes to reduce the risk of them passing it on to others,” said Sue Smith, executive chief nurse.

“They should also avoid work – and only return after they have been free of diarrhoea and vomiting for at least 48 hours– during this time infectious viruses may still be present.”

Norovirus, because of its highly contagious nature, can quickly spread through a hospital and the only way to combat it once it gets into a hospital environment is to close wards to admissions, restrict visiting and wait for the outbreak to run its course, said UHMBT.

Health officials said this can be highly disruptive to patients in those and other wards. On some rare occasions it may lead to patients having surgery or other procedures cancelled.

Ms Smith continued: “We have confirmed the patients are affected by Norovirus– and we would ask people to follow our advice to minimise its effects on the hospital, themselves and their families.”

“While we have not yet imposed any visiting restrictions or closed wards to admissions, these are things we may have to consider if further patients are affected.

“We will try to keep these inconveniences to a minimum, and apologise for the effects in advance.”

The ward manager can be contacted on 01524 583434.

Public Health England say : 

*  The symptoms usually last from 12 to 60 hours and will start with the sudden onset of nausea followed by vomiting and diarrhoea.

* Norovirus affects people of all ages.

* Most people recover very quickly but immunity to it is short-lived and it is easily transmitted from one person to another.

* It thrives in semi-closed environments where large numbers of people congregate, so schools, nursing homes and hospitals are most affected.

* It is important to be vigilant and good hygiene is particularly important in preventing yourself or others from becoming infected.

* This includes thorough hand washing especially after using the toilet, and any contaminated surface should be thoroughly disinfected after an episode of illness.

* Food preparation should also be avoided until three days after symptoms have disappeared.

* Unfortunately there is no specific treatment for norovirus apart from letting the illness run its course, therefore it is important to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration especially in the very young or elderly.

The NHS Choices website (www.nhs.uk) can provide further advice.

People suffering do not usually need to consult their GP unless symptoms are very bad or continue beyond 48 hours as there is no specific treatment for Norovirus.

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