This winter the public are being asked to think carefully before visiting friends and relatives in hospital in an attempt to protect vulnerable patients from norovirus.
Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust (LCHS), United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT), Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and the four Clinical Commissioning Groups in Lincolnshire are asking anyone planning to visit hospitals in Boston, Lincoln, Grantham, Spalding, Skegness, Gainsborough and Louth to stay at home if they or their family members have had diarrhoea, vomiting or ‘flu-like’ symptoms in the last 72 hours. Those with mild symptoms, such as an upset stomach, should also refrain from visiting hospitals.
Everyone can play their part in helping to keep Norovirus, and flu-like illnesses, away from vulnerable patients and staff who could pass it on. If you have been ill you could be putting others at risk.
Norovirus is highly contagious and can be exacerbated by colder weather. It can be particularly serious for people who are already ill or who have a long term condition.
Cheryl Day, Lead Matron for Infection Prevention at LCHS, said: “Norovirus is highly infectious and easily spread through hand to hand contact, or by touching surfaces which have germs on them.
“The infection usually starts suddenly and the symptoms pass quickly. It can more seriously affect those patients who are already unwell or those who have significant underlying medical conditions.”
Dr Kevin Hill, Chair of South Lincolnshire CCG, also urged people affected not to visit: “Hospitals are often under pressure around winter and this can be made worse if bugs like norovirus enter wards. These bugs can pass quickly between visitors, patients and staff, which can result in staff being off ill, beds becoming unavailable and appointments being postponed.
“There are some really basic steps you can take to help us to keep services running as normal, such as not visiting hospital if you’ve been sick or had diarrhoea in the last 72 hours.
“We also advise children aged 12 years or younger not to visit hospital, as they often pick these bugs up at school. If you’re visiting someone in hospital, remember that no more than two visitors are allowed in at any one time and to use the seats provided at bedside.”
Here are some simple steps the public can take to help stop the virus spreading:
- wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water, particularly after using the toilet and before preparing food
- if you’re in an NHS facility pay attention to hand hygiene notices such as using hand gel upon entering and exiting a ward
- disinfect any surfaces or objects that could be contaminated with Norovirus. It is best to use a bleach-based household cleaner and follow the instructions on the product
- flush away any infected faeces or vomit in the toilet. You should also keep the surrounding toilet area clean and hygienic
- wash any clothing or linens which could have become contaminated with Norovirus, washing with hot, soapy water.
Although people usually recover without treatment in 24-72 hours, it is important to stay away from work, school, college or social gatherings until you have been symptom free for at least 72 hours.
If you have Norovirus you are advised to rest and take plenty of non-caffeinated drinks to avoid dehydration. Don’t visit your GP surgery or local A&E. You should recover naturally without any specific treatment.
If you are worried about prolonged symptoms you can ring NHS 111 or call your GP. They will be able to provide advice for people who are at greater risk from dehydration from diarrhoea and vomiting, such as children under the age of five or the elderly.