Bug forces hospital to close

A HOSPITAL has today been closed to visitors as part of a bid to prevent the spread of the winter vomiting bug.

Laurence Cawley

A HOSPITAL has today been closed to visitors as part of a bid to prevent the spread of the winter vomiting bug.

A number of wards at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds were already closed to visitors because of the norovirus infection.

But overnight it spread to three more wards at the Bury St Edmunds hospital.

As a result, the number of patients and staff affected has grown to 32 and managers at the trust have decided to close it to all visitors other than those visiting intensive care, paediatric, maternity and palliative care patients.

The hospital is today appealing to members of the public to help control and manage the outbreak by staying away from the site - even if they do not feel unwell.

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Access to the hospital has also been restricted, with the rear entrance shut to the public.

Two members of staff have been positioned at the front entrance to explain the situation to visitors and ask them to stay away.

In addition, any staff or outpatients coming into the hospital will be asked to wash their hands with soap and water in portable sinks placed in the foyer, both when arriving and leaving the building, as alcohol gel is not effective against the virus.

Nichole Day, executive chief nurse and director of infection prevention and control at the hospital, said: “Closing the hospital to visitors is not a decision we have taken lightly.

“However, the safety and wellbeing of our patients always comes first. As such, we're asking the public to work with us to control and manage this outbreak by staying away. Anyone who does need to come into the building can help by cleaning their hands thoroughly with soap and water in the sinks we have provided.

“Norovirus is very infectious and every year there are cases in the community which transfer to the hospital. Because the virus has an incubation period of several days, people are often unaware that they are carrying it until after they have passed it on.

“That is why we've acted quickly and introduced these measures because if we do not contain this outbreak, it could seriously affect the running of the hospital.

“People who have had symptoms should stay away from the hospital until at least 72 hours after their last episode of diarrhoea or vomiting. We would like to thank visitors in advance for their patience and understanding.”

The wards affected by norovirus are F5, F6, F7, F8, G3 and G5.