Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust has urged anyone planning to visit its hospitals in Skegness and Louth 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 noroviruses 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, which is why the NHS has asked people to think carefully before visiting hospitals if they or anyone in their family has even mild symptoms of stomach upset.
Cheryl Day, LCHS’s Countywide Professional Advisor for Infection Prevention and Control, said: “Norovirus is highly infectious, and easily spread through hand-to-hand contact, or by touching surfaces which have germs on them.
“The infection usually starts suddenly and the symptoms pass quickly. Although it is very unpleasant while you are unwell, most people make a full recovery without a need to visit their GP or other healthcare provider.
“The infection can more seriously affect those patients who are already unwell or those who have significant underlying medical conditions.
“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 you think you may have the illness then it is important to stay away from hospitals, GP surgeries and care homes for at least 48 hours after your symptoms have stopped to avoid spreading it to people who may have underlying health conditions and already be vulnerable.
“If you have a hospital or GP appointment for another medical condition which was arranged prior to you becoming ill, you should contact them via telephone for advice in the first instance.”
“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.”
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 an NHS facility, 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. The NHS says you should not visit your GP surgery or local A&E Unit. You should recover naturally without any specific treatment.
If you are worried about prolonged symptoms, you can contact NHS Direct on www.nhs.uk, or 0845 4647 / NHS111, or ring your 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.