Don’t bring norovirus into hospital

19 December 2012

Chocolates, magazines, grapes? Whatever you bring into hospital, make sure it's not Norovirus.

Sherwood Forest Hospitals is asking anyone planning to visit any of their hospitals 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 designed to help keep 'winter vomiting' or 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 Norovirus 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 buildings with hundreds (or thousands) of visitors every day.  That is why the NHS asks people to think carefully before visiting hospitals if they or anyone in their family has even mild symptoms of stomach upset.

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 a hospital, 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 you can do is rest, and take 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.

Suzanne Morris, Infection Prevention and Control Nurse Consultant at Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation 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 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 hospital."

"People worried about prolonged symptoms, should contact NHS Direct on www.nhs.uk, or 0845 4647/NHS111, or ring their 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."

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Notes to Editors
1. Winter vomiting is the term that has been used to cover the Noroviruses such as the Norwalk virus.  Transmission can occur through contact with an infected person, through contact with surfaces or objects that are contaminated with the virus, or by eating contaminated food or water.

As there is a 15-48 hour incubation period, it can be difficult to detect in the early stages before diarrhoea and vomiting actually starts. Typically, the illness can last between 12 to 60 hours. There is also a 48-hour period following the last physical signs of symptoms where someone could still be infectious.

There are many types of Norovirus, and it is possible for infection to occur several times.  This is because after getting the illness immunity to the virus only lasts for 14 weeks.

2. For more information about norovirus, visit: http://www.hpa.org.uk/Topics/InfectiousDiseases/InfectionsAZ/Norovirus/

Issued by the Trust's Communications Department
Telephone: 01623 672294 for further information/interviews/photographs