THE public are being reminded not to visit any hospital if they have suffered from or been in contact with those suffering from diarrhoea or vomiting recently.

Ten patients at Royal Lancaster Infirmary are suffering from symptoms of Norovirus, the winter vomiting disease.

They include three patients in a bay on the Acute Medical Unit and seven across Ward 20 at the hospital.

Visiting is being restricted to Ward 20 while the outbreak is being tackled. Visitors are asked to contact the ward on 01524 583458 before they set off.

Visitors and patients to the rest of the hospital are reminded that if they have suffered symptoms in the past 48 hours, they should not visit unless their condition is life-threatening.

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

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

“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 Joann Morse, Deputy 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.”

The University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust (UHMBT) said because of its highly contagious nature, Norovirus can quickly spread through a hospital and the only way to combat it is to close wards to admissions, restrict visiting and wait for the outbreak to run its course.

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 Morse 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.”

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

Public Health England says:

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

o Norovirus affects people of all ages.

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

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

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

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

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

o 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 Trust suggests that the NHS Choices website 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.