Vomit virus victims told to stay out of hospitals

VICTIMS of an infectious stomach bug sweeping the country have been told to stay away from hospitals and surgeries in Camden

Ed Thomas

VICTIMS of an infectious stomach bug sweeping the country have been told to stay away from hospitals and surgeries in Camden.

Health chiefs have issued guidelines warning people who may have contracted the Norovirus to stay at home, for fear of spreading the nasty disease.

Symptoms include diarrhoea, stomach pains and vomiting, which usually begin between 12 and 48 hours after the patient becomes infected.

Bosses at the Royal Free, Whittington and UCLH hospitals have said no major outbreaks have occurred and all wards remain open, but no chances are being taken.

"The bed management and infection control teams are vigilant in ensuring that patients admitted with, or developing, diarrhoea and vomiting are appropriately isolated and managed," said a spokeswoman for the Royal Free in Hampstead.

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"Usually the illness is treated symptomatically with oral fluids and those suffering from the virus are advised to stay at home for 48 hours after the symptoms have gone and to drink plenty of fluids.

"Certain groups, such as the very young or very old, may be more prone to the effects of the dehydration caused by vomiting and diarrhoea."

The spokeswoman said only in the most severe cases should people contact their GP.

And anyone visiting the hospital must adhere to the strict handwashing regulations before entering the wards.

NHS Direct has experienced a surge in the number of calls from people suffering from the virus, which is more common in the winter.

The Health Protection Agency estimates up to 1million people are affected in the UK each year.

"Anyone can get Norovirus. But outbreaks are more common in enclosed spaces like nurseries, schools, hospitals and care homes," said an NHS Direct spokesman.

"There is no specific treatment for Norovirus and it's best to just let it run its course."

Duncan Burton, divisional senior nurse for emergency services at UCLH, said: "If you have any of the symptoms then you should stay away from the hospital.

"We have put posters up to that effect at all the entrances to our wards and departments.

"Whilst the vomiting and diarrhoea are short-lived, it can still be a nasty experience especially for the elderly or very young. So anyone concerned should contact NHS Direct."

A spokeswoman for the Whittington in Highgate said cases of the Norovirus at the hospital had been "sporadic" but so far there has been no outbreak on the wards.

"In the event of an outbreak, our infection control policy is in place and our infection control team are monitoring the situation daily," she said.

Anyone who suspects they may have the Norovirus should call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 for advice.