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Public urged to avoid hospitals with symptoms of norovirus

Published 19/12/2014

Experts are reminding people with symptoms of norovirus to stay away from hospitals and care homes this winter.

Public Health England (PHE) has advised people with symptoms of the illness to telephone NHS 111 for advice. It is vital that people who may have norovirus do not visit hospitals, care homes or their GP surgery.

Norovirus infection is the most common cause of vomiting and diarrhoea in the UK, affecting around 3million people every year. The symptoms of norovirus are very distinctive – people often report a sudden onset of nausea followed by projectile vomiting and watery diarrhoea, some people also experience headaches, mild temperature and stomach cramps.  

There is no treatment for the virus but it is important to keep hydrated to combat the loss of fluids. Most people will recover within a few days and there are no long-term effects.

The illness is highly infectious and great care needs to be taken to prevent its spread. When introduced to hospitals, residential care homes and other establishments where people live or work together in close proximity it can have major consequences such as the closure of hospital wards to new admissions, NHS staff going off work sick and patient appointments being postponed. 

Dr David Spence, Deputy Director of Health Protection for the East Midlands Public Health England Centre said: “The impact of norovirus on individuals and care settings, such as hospitals and residential care homes, can be limited to some extent, with simple actions.

“Thorough hand washing, ensuring you wash your hands for 20 seconds and careful cleaning after someone has been ill are essential.  Social occasions should also be avoided until at least 48 hours after someone has recovered from the illness.”

The advice for people with symptoms is:

•Stay away from work, school or college until you have been free of symptoms for at least 48 hours

•Do not handle or prepare food for other people until you have been symptom free for a minimum period of 48 hours

•Do not visit friends or relatives in hospitals or residential care homes to avoid introducing the infection to environments where it could spread easily and put vulnerable people at greater risk

•Do not attend social gatherings until you have been free of all symptoms for at least 48 hours

•Do not visit your GP surgery or local A&E Unit. You will recover naturally without treatment, but it is important to rest and take plenty of drinks to replace lost fluids

•Wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds and regularly at all times, but particularly after toilet visits and before eating

•Do not share towels with others. If possible, use paper towels after hand-washing and dispose of them immediately

•Make sure that any surface that is contaminated by vomit or faeces is promptly and thoroughly disinfected after an episode of illness

•If your symptoms persist or appear to be worsening, phone your family doctor or NHS 111 for advice

•If you have bloody diarrhoea (blood in your stools), phone your doctor or NHS 111 urgently for advice. 

Last Modified 19/12/2014