Public can help to halt bug's spread

A DOCTOR has today issued a plea to patients and visitors to help stop the spread of the winter vomiting bug in the county's hospitals.Dr Caroline Barker, consultant microbiologist and infection control doctor at West Suffolk Hospital, said: “The winter vomiting virus continues to be a problem in the community and we are seeing cases in the hospital.

A DOCTOR has today issued a plea to patients and visitors to help stop the spread of the winter vomiting bug in the county's hospitals.

Dr Caroline Barker, consultant microbiologist and infection control doctor at West Suffolk Hospital, said: “The winter vomiting virus continues to be a problem in the community and we are seeing cases in the hospital.

“Diarrhoea and vomiting is a problem every winter - it is highly contagious and people may not realise they have got it until they are actually sick.

“We have put in measures to try to limit the spread of the bug to other patients, visitors and staff, including isolating patients who have been admitted with the illness and restricting staff movements.”

She urged people with any of the symptoms to stay away from hospital unless they are extremely ill, or to make sure they inform doctors they may have the bug.

She said: “We would prefer people showing these symptoms not to come in, unless they are extremely ill with it and having problems with dehydration.

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“Unless you are very young, very old or frail or infirm, you do not need to come into hospital.

“Stay at home, avoid exposure to other people, take paracetamol and drink lots of water. The infection generally lasts for 24 to 48 hours.

“If you have to come to hospital, for example as an outpatient, please let us know - ideally before you step in the door - that you have had these symptoms.

“If you are planning to visit someone in the hospital and you have had diarrhoea and vomiting within the last three or four days, or have been in close contact with someone who has had it within the last three to four days, please don't come as you could be exposing other people to the virus.”

At the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital nine wards have been affected by the bug this week, with doctors urging those with symptoms to stay away.

Jan Rowsell, spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital, said the hospital did not have any cases of this specific bug at the moment but had had isolated bugs over the past few months which has resulted in bays being closed.

The winter vomiting bug is also known as a norovirus. Noroviruses are a group of viruses that are the most common cause of stomach bugs in the UK.

The virus is highly infectious and can be transmitted by contact with an infected person, by consuming contaminated food or water, or by contact with a contaminated surface or objects.

The symptoms being around 12 to 48 hours after becoming infected.

The illness can last from 12 to 60 hours. Most people will make a full recovery within one to two days, however some people may become very dehydrated and require hospital treatment.

Outbreaks usually tend to affect people who are in semi-closed environments like hospitals, nursing homes and schools.

There is no specific treatment for norovirus apart from letting the illness run its course.

It is estimated that norovirus affects between 600,000 and one million people a year in the UK.