A SENIOR member of the NHS Borders Infection Control Team has said there continues to be a “higher than usual” number of cases of Norovirus in the region, and is urging patients, visitors and staff to help minimise the impact.
The virus, which has led to the repeated closure of wards at the Borders General Hospital and some community hospitals in the area in recent years, is one of the commonest causes of diarrhoea and vomiting illness.
Consultant Microbiologist Dr Ed James said: “It doesn’t just occur in hospitals, it spreads through communities just like the flu does. The virus is very infectious and spreads quickly between people. This is why outbreaks happen in hospitals where a number of people are sharing facilities.
“Outbreaks can start abruptly and spread quickly, but action by patients, visitors and staff can help minimise the impact.
“Visitors are asked to comply with any instructions they are given by staff and in particular, they should try to avoid going to hospital or any other healthcare facility if they or other members of their family have had symptoms of diarrhoea or vomiting within the past 48 hours.”
He explained that wards are closed as a precautionary measure to protect new patients being admitted to the hospital and help stop the spread of the virus. It can also help to protect people visiting the hospital, particularly children.
Dr James added: “That is why we ask visitors to consider postponing their visits to friends or relatives in the hospital and not to bring children to the hospital when there is an outbreak.
“We will also limit the number of visitors to each patient and ask visitors not to move around the hospital and only go to the area they need to visit. Hand washing with soap and water is essential for both visitors and staff after contact with people with diarrhoea symptoms in hospital and at home.”
Norovirus can occur at any time of year, but is more common in the winter months, which is why it is sometimes called ‘winter vomiting bug’. Common symptoms of Norovirus are diarrhoea and/or vomiting generally lasting for 12-72 hours. Other symptoms can include headache, fever and muscle aches. Anyone can get the infection and it can be serious in the very young, frail or older people who are vulnerable to the effects of dehydration.
Treatment for Norovirus in most cases requires drinking more fluids than usual and resting to give your body a chance to fight the infection. NHS24 provides comprehensive up-to-date health information and self care advice by telephone on 08454 24 24 24 or on their website at www.nhs24.co.uk.
Because the symptoms of Norovirus can come on very quickly, people can worry, particularly if a child is taken ill. The advice if you are worried is to call NHS 24 or your local health clinic or GP.