Norovirus Outbreak Causes Mass Hospital Ward Closures

The Department of Health have put out a warning notification because of a threatened norovirus epidemic. They have seen almost a 20% increase in infections over the same time last year.

Norovirus is the seasonal bug that is anything but jolly. Extreme diarrhea and vomiting has been reported at thirty-five hospitals. As a consequence  hundreds of hospital places have been shut down when twenty-seven wards in the last 14 days were isolated due to infected patients and are having to be disinfected. In total confirmed cases in the UK from July to now are nineteen percent up on the same months in 2010.  Symptoms of norovirus typically subside in 1-3 days.

This virus is ultra contagious and can be a killer in older people and other in a susceptible condition. If you are one of the many people who have been visited by the symptoms you are requested to self isolate and not mix friends and relatives. Especially those in hospital until they are fully recovered. Hospital visitors are also being asked to be ever more stringent in washing their hands repeatedly while on the wards.

image source: Public Health Agency of Canada

We must all be responsible when it comes to limiting the contagion of all kinds of infections because a virus in addition to another illness can be fatal to already frail patients. We must keep best practice in terms of personal hygiene to the fore (regular hand washing especially after using the toilet and before eating) at all times, but particularly conscientious where the elderly and sick are involved. This means influenza as well as norovirus.

[box type=”important”]If you are suffering from sickness and diarrhea, make sure that you stay away from food preparation to avoid infecting others. Doctors in the UK are advising people with norovovirus symptoms to stay away from hospitals until 48 hrs after the symptoms have stopped to avoid infecting patients.  As well, you should also stay away from school or work for the same period of time.   [/box]

Hospital visitors are requested not to sit on beds when there and not to come at all if they had been sick within the most recent seventy-two hours. Interpersonal contact is the route of transmission for norovirus but it can also travel short distance in the air. The primary symptoms are acute sudden nausea and watery diarrhea.

The Health Protection Agency data shows that numbers of norovirus cases are still below the numbers expected for wintertime, possibly thanks to the mild weather so far. They say the first indicators that norovirus time is here is when 4.8% of queries to NHS Direct are reporting vomiting. Last week the number was 4.2% of calls with the North East and South West regions being worst affected. 3 hospitals have said that 124 beds are because of  ward closures.

This is probably a conservative estimate. Just this weekend, wards were closed to admissions at Montagu Hospital in South Yorkshire. At the same time 82 beds were closed on 2 wards at Northwick Park in Harrow, north London. Croydon Health Services report 1 ward closed. There are 2 wards also closed at Warwick Hospital and the Richard Wells Ward was isolated at Bedford hospital to limit the outbreak of gastroenteritis.

In Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, there have been 64 confirmed and suspect clusters of norovirus outbreak.  Dr. Chris Sikora, Alberta Health Services’s medical officer of health for Edmonton said:

We get norovirus every fall, every winter…  This year is no different than other years.”

Claire Al-Aufi

Claire Al-Aufi is a contributing author for Hive Health Media who provides updates on health and fitness news.

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