Hospitals report Norovirus outbreak
PUBLISHED: 14:37 05 December 2019 | UPDATED: 13:51 06 December 2019
The NHS has issued a stark warning to Suffolk residents to stay at home if they have Norovirus, as hospitals in the county are forced to close beds due to the bug.
Top medics in East Anglia are concerned about the spread of the winter vomiting bug this year and the impact it is having on hospitals and other services as nationally there is a rise of nearly 30% in reported cases compared to previous winters.
They are therefore urging those who catch the virus not to go back to work or school until at least 48 hours after symptoms pass, to avoid passing it on to others.
Catherine Morgan, Chief Nurse of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, said: "We are currently caring for a small number of patients who have Norovirus at our hospitals, which is not unusual at this time of the year.
"There have been a number of cases of Norovirus in the community and this is reflected by what we are seeing on our wards so some bays have been closed to reduce the risk of the bug spreading.
"If you're feeling unwell or you've had diarrhoea and/or vomiting, or you have been in contact with someone who is unwell, you should not visit our hospitals until 48 hours after your last symptom.
"We are grateful for everyone's support in protecting our patients and ask you to continue to help by washing your hands with soap and water when you arrive and leave the ward you're visiting."
National surveillance data from Public Health England (PHE) showed that the number of positive Norovirus laboratory reports during the two weeks from November 11 to 28 was 28% higher than the average for the same period in the previous five years.
Almost double the number of hospital beds have been closed every day over the last week than at the same time last year, in a bid to stop the spread of diarrhoea and vomiting to more patients.
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Health bosses are also encouraging those who need it to seek help from the free, 24/7 NHS 111 phone and online service rather than going to hospital or their GP, where they risk infecting others.
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS medical director, said: "We've already seen a number of hospitals and schools affected by Norovirus, and unfortunately instances like these are likely to rise over the coming weeks.
"Self-treating at home is the best way to help yourself and avoid putting others at risk."
Anne How, infection prevention lead nurse at the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: "We work hard to prevent and limit the spread of infection at our Trust all year round. However, we are particularly vigilant in winter as the risk of infections spreading is very high.
"Having good hand hygiene is the best way of protecting yourself and others from norovirus.
"Our staff follow international best practice when it comes to hand hygiene and we have reminder posters and information across the Trust to encourage visitors to do the same.
"Anyone visiting has been urged to take extra care to wash their hands with soap and water both when they arrive and when they leave, because alcohol hand gels aren't effective against norovirus.
"We would advise anyone who has had diarrhoea or vomiting to stay away from the hospital for at least 48 hours after they have recovered, even if they feel better.
"Otherwise they run the risk of unknowingly passing the highly contagious illness on to someone who is already sick."