Norwich hospital in norovirus plea

People who contract a winter vomiting bug are being urged to stay at home by a city hospital.

Norovirus is circulating in the community, and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital currently has two patients affected by diarrhoea and vomiting.

While that is a very small proportion of its more than 1,000 inpatients, the virus is highly contagious and outbreaks can add extra pressures at a very busy time by causing wards to close to new admissions.

Norovirus spreads rapidly in closed environments such as hospitals, schools, nursing and residential homes, and as schools prepare to return following the Christmas holidays, people are being warned to wash their hands thoroughly and regularly.

Nick Coveney, director of nursing, said: 'At this time of year, we often see levels of norovirus start to increase and our plea to out-patients and visitors is not to come to hospital if they are unwell.

'It is better to telephone and rearrange your hospital appointment or delay your visit until you have been symptom free for two days.

'Washing your hands before entering and leaving a ward will also help us to reduce infection levels. During January, we will be displaying posters in our reception areas giving visitors our top 10 tips for reducing the spread of infections such as norovirus and flu.'

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The virus has led to three wards being closed at different times at Bury St Edmunds' West Suffolk Hospital, while the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn has two patients with symptoms. The James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston has no reported cases.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) said there have been 46 outbreaks of suspected norovirus in hospitals over the past two weeks, three in the east, but stressed this was within seasonal norms.

Dr Bob Adak, of the HPA, said: 'Every year millions of people will be affected by a bout of norovirus and for most people it will be an unpleasant but short-lived illness lasting around two days.

'Anyone who thinks they may have it should not to go to their doctor's surgery or A&E as this could spread the illness to vulnerable people and healthcare workers. Take advice from NHS Direct or your local GP practice on managing the symptoms – the most important is to remain hydrated and the symptoms will pass within a couple of days.'

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