Virus forces hospital ward closure

HEALTH chiefs have today closed off a ward at a Suffolk hospital after patients fell ill with a “highly contagious” virus.

Laurence Cawley

HEALTH chiefs have today closed off a ward at a Suffolk hospital after patients fell ill with a “highly contagious” virus.

Eight patients showing symptoms of norovirus, which causes sickness and diarrhoea, have been isolated in a bid to prevent the bug spreading to other patients at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds.

The hospital has also closed ward G4 to new admissions and has urged anybody showing symptoms of norovirus to stay away from the hospital.

Norovirus, which is often known as winter vomiting virus, affects hundreds of people in the community each year.

Sufferers get bouts of diarrhoea and vomiting which last for one or two days, but may remain contagious even after they start feeling better.

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Dr Caroline Barker, the hospital's infection control doctor, said: “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.

“We are managing the current cases using our stringent infection control policies and have been proactive to stop the infection from spreading to any other wards. Our cleaning staff have also been working hard to make sure enhanced cleaning takes place on the affected ward.

“We would advise anyone who has had diarrhoea or vomiting to stay away from the hospital for at least 72 hours after they have recovered, even if they feel better. Otherwise they run the risk of unknowingly passing the highly contagious illness on to someone who is already sick.

“Anyone who visits the hospital should be vigilant and take care to clean their hands. If they are visiting the affected ward, they should use soap and water when they arrive and before they leave as the alcohol gel is not effective against this virus.”

Anyone suffering from norovirus should stay at home, drink plenty of water and take paracetamol tablets to relieve a temperature. People with the virus need to come into hospital if they are very young, very old or frail or are having problems with dehydration.

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