Winter vomiting bug outbreak forces hospital ward closures

As cases of norovirus rise 50 per cent from last year, experts advise how to avoid highly contagious virus

LAST UPDATED AT 10:49 ON Tue 27 Nov 2012

HOSPITALS across the UK are being forced to close down wards because of a surge in cases of the winter vomiting bug, norovirus.

The Health Protection Agency says confirmed reports of the virus are up 52 per cent on last year, according to ITV News. There have been 1,975 cases since July, compared to 1,301 in the same period last year. However, the real number of norovirus cases will be much higher since the majority are not reported.

The increase is putting a huge strain on the NHS. Forty-five hospitals have had to close wards and carry deep cleans to remove norovirus infections.
Warwick Hospital has banned visitors from six wards, while Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital has closed four wards.

Other hospitals fighting outbreaks include Solihull, East Surrey Hospital, Weston General Hospital in Weston-super-Mare, Hinchingbrooke in Cambridgeshire and Jersey’s only hospital.

Symptoms of norovirus, the most common form of gastroenteritis in British adults, include vomiting, watery diarrhoea, stomach cramps and aching limbs. Most people make a full recovery within a couple of days, but the elderly are vulnerable to dehydration.

Sufferers are advised not to see a doctor since there is nothing they can do, and by leaving their home an infected person only risks spreading the norovirus to other people.

It is highly contagious and can be picked up by touching a handrail at work or on public transport. Experts say the single most effective way to prevent its spread is with frequent and thorough hand-washing using soap and water. · 

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