As part of our winter campaign each week we are sharing advice and tips from our staff. This week Dr Clive Graham, director of infection prevention & control has shared advice on norovirus. 

Although norovirus (the most common cause of diarrhoea and vomiting) circulates all year round, it can be particularly prevalent during winter months.

Norovirus can affect people of all ages and is spread through contact with an infected person, contaminated surfaces or by consuming contaminated food or water. There is no treatment for norovirus but it is important people who have the bug keep hydrated to combat the loss of fluids. People with norovirus will recover in a day or two, but will remain infectious for a couple of days after recovery.

Anyone who thinks they may have norovirus is advised not to visit a GP surgery but to stay at home and call NHS 111 for advice if necessary.

The nature of the virus means that it can spread extremely quickly in close knit environments such as schools, hospitals and care homes.

It is a nasty infection for anyone who gets it but can be particularly dangerous for people with other medical conditions. The virus can be unwittingly brought in to the hospitals and other settings by visitors who are displaying symptoms or are not 48 hours clear of symptoms. The impact can be serious on vulnerable patients who are already unwell, have a long-term health condition and for those who are frail. 

If you or a family member who you live with has had diarrhoea or vomiting symptoms within the past 48 hours then it is advised that you stay at home in order not to spread the virus further, especially if you are considering visiting somebody in hospital. When we have loved ones who are poorly and in hospital, it is natural we want to be with them even if we are feeling under the weather ourselves. However it is important to remember that if you are unwell yourself you could be unintentionally putting your loved one and other patients at risk.

In addition, when a norovirus outbreak occurs, particularly in an environment like a hospital, it is difficult to contain and can lead to the closure of entire wards, putting a huge strain on local NHS resources.

There are simple steps people can take to reduce the risk of spreading norovirus:

  • Thorough hand washing
  • Don’t prepare food while infected
  • Immediately clean and disinfect surfaces after episodes of diarrhoea and vomiting
  • Wash clothes and bed linen that may be contaminated
  • Stay at home if displaying any symptoms