Chocolates, magazines, grapes? Whatever you take into Louth County Hospital hospital, make sure it’s not norovirus!
Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust is asking anyone planning to visit its hospitals in Gainsborough, Louth, Skegness and Spalding to stay at home if they or their family members have had diarrhoea, vomiting or ‘flu-like’ symptoms in the last four days.
The request is designed to help keep ‘winter vomiting’ or norovirus away from vulnerable patients and staff who could pass it on. Symptoms of norovirus include diarrhoea and vomiting and, just like flu, the virus can seriously affect vulnerable patients.
Diseases such as noroviruses can be exacerbated by colder weather, and can be particularly serious for people who are already ill or who have a long term condition.
These stomach bugs are highly contagious and can spread rapidly anywhere that people are gathered, such as schools or offices. Hospitals are public buildings with hundreds of visitors every day. That is why the NHS asks people to think carefully before visiting hospitals if they or anyone in their family has even mild symptoms of stomach upset.
Good hand hygiene can help to limit the spread of the infection and there are some simple steps that the public can take to help stop a norovirus spreading:
Cheryl Day, LCHS’s Countywide Professional Advisor for Infection Prevention and Control, 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. Although it is very unpleasant while you are unwell, most people make a full recovery without a need to visit their GP or other healthcare provider. The infection can more seriously affect those patients who are already unwell or those who have significant underlying medical conditions.
“This is why we’re asking everyone considering visiting a friend or relative in hospital to think carefully about whether they need to come.
“If you think you may have the illness then it is important to stay away from hospitals, GP surgeries and care homes for at least 48 hours after your symptoms have stopped to avoid spreading it to people who may have underlying health conditions and already be vulnerable.
“If you have a hospital or GP appointment for another medical condition which was arranged prior to you becoming ill, you should contact them via telephone for advice in the first instance.”
“We know that sometimes visitors feel they must take every opportunity to visit sick friends or relatives. However, if they themselves have been unwell, they could be putting others at risk. If you’re unsure whether to visit, please feel free to contact the ward nurse before you come into hospital.”
If you are worried about prolonged symptoms, you can contact NHS Direct on www.nhs.uk, or 0845 4647 / NHS111, or ring 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.