Chocolates, magazines, grapes? Whatever you bring when you visit, make sure it’s not Norovirus.
Wye Valley NHS Trust and Public Health Herefordshire are urging anyone planning to visit hospitals or care homes in the county to stay at home if they or their family members have had diarrhoea, vomiting or ‘flu-like’ symptoms in the last four days.
The request is following early cases of Norovirus ‘winter vomiting’ in neighbouring areas, and is designed to help keep Norovirus away from vulnerable patients and staff who could pass it on.
Symptoms of Norovirus include diarrhoea and vomiting and, just like flu, the virus can seriously affect vulnerable patients. Diseases such as Noroviruses can be exacerbated by colder weather, and can be particularly serious for people who are already ill or who have a long term condition.
These stomach bugs are highly contagious and can spread rapidly anywhere that people are gathered, such as schools or offices. Hospitals are public buildings with hundreds (or thousands) of visitors every day. That is why the NHS asks people to think carefully before visiting hospitals or care homes if they or anyone in their family has even mild symptoms of stomach upset.
Alison Johnson, consultant microbiologist at Wye Valley NHS Trust, said:
“We usually see higher levels of Norovirus in autumn and winter, and it’s really important to make sure that we protect vulnerable patients and hospital staff. This is why we’re asking everyone considering visiting a friend or relative in hospital or a care home to think carefully about whether they need to come if they have experienced diarrhoea, vomiting or flu-like symptoms in the last four days.
“We know that sometimes visitors feel they must take every opportunity to visit sick friends or relatives. However, if they themselves have been unwell, they could be putting others at risk. If you’re unsure whether to visit, please feel free to contact the ward nurse before you come into our hospitals.”
Dr Arif Mahmood, Consultant in Public Health, said
“If you are worried about prolonged symptoms, you can contact NHS 111 or ring your GP. They will be able to provide advice for people who are at greater risk from dehydration from diarrhoea and vomiting, such as children under the age of five or the elderly.
“We also urge care home staff to be vigilant of residents with symptoms of diarrhoea and/or vomiting and inform and seek help from the relevant GP and Public Health England.”
In addition to not visiting the hospitals or care homes if you are unwell, good hand hygiene can help to limit the spread of the infection and there are some simple steps that the public can take to help stop a norovirus spreading:
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water, particularly after using the toilet, and before preparing food. If you’re in an NHS facility, pay attention to hand hygiene notices such as using hand gel upon entering and leaving a ward.
- Disinfect any surfaces or objects that could be contaminated with a Norovirus. It is best to use a bleach-based household cleaner. Always follow the instructions on the cleaning product.
- Flush away any infected faeces or vomit in the toilet. You should also keep the surrounding toilet area clean and hygienic.
- Wash any clothing, or linens, which could have become contaminated with a Norovirus. Washing with hot, soapy water will help to ensure that the virus is killed.
- Although people usually recover without treatment in 24-72 hours, it is important to stay away from work, school, college or any social gatherings until you have been free of symptoms for at least 48 hours.
If you have Norovirus, the best thing that you can do is rest and drink plenty of non-caffeinated drinks to avoid dehydration. Don’t visit your GP surgery or local Emergency Department. You should recover naturally without any specific treatment.
For further information please read the latest advice from NHS Choices
Issued in conjunction with Wye Valley NHS Trust