Norovirus closes 45 hospital wards in the north-west

Norovirus has led to the closure of 45 wards in northwest England
Norovirus has led to the closure of 45 wards in northwest England

Last season, outbreaks of Norovirus led to the closure of 45 hospital wards across northwest England a report has revealed.

Hospitals affected include Furness General Hospital and The Royal Lancaster Infirmary which closed an elderly care ward to new admissions in November.

The report, released by Public Health England this week, also showed that there have been 1,704 reports of Norovirus across England this season a 9% increase on the 5-season average for 2011-2016.

It also shows a 55% increase in cases for the same week last year, although last year saw an unusually low number of Norovirus outbreaks.

In the last two weeks of November there were 14 reported cases of Norovirus in hospitals across England which led to ward closures.

Spokesperson for Public Health England North West Claire Roach said: "Norovirus, although it’s unpleasant, it is generally a mild illness and there is no specific treatment, apart from letting the illness run its course.

"In the vast majority of cases, there is no additional benefit to visiting a GP or A&E department but by doing so, people can risk spreading the infection further in places where there are likely to be people who are more vulnerable to illness."

PHE advice for avoiding norovirus includes:

- Make sure you wash and dry your hands often and thoroughly, with soap and warm water. Good hand hygiene - whether you have norovirus or not - is important to reduce your risk of catching it – and other viruses around in the winter.

- Don’t rely on alcohol hand gels alone, handwashing is very important.

- Be especially careful to wash your hands after using the toilet or before touching food.

If you have vomiting and diarrhoea symptoms:

- It is important to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, especially in the very young or the elderly. Remember you need to drink more than unusual to replace fluids lost from vomiting and diarrhoea

- Consult a pharmacist for advice on over-the-counter medicines to reduce any fever or aches and pains

- Get plenty of rest

- Stay away from work and keep children away from school until at least 48 hours after the symptoms have stopped. Don’t visit vulnerable family or friends, especially people in hospitals or care homes, to reduce the risk of passing the virus on.

- There is no specific treatment for norovirus and seeing a doctor is not usually necessary. Don’t visit your GP or a hospital A&E department, to avoid passing the virus on to others. However, if you or your child has symptoms of severe dehydration, has bloody diarrhoea, your symptoms haven’t improved after a few days or you have a serious underlying health condition, telephone your GP or NHS 111 to get medical advice.

If you are living in the same household as someone who has symptoms:

- Be careful when clearing up after someone who has been ill – wash your hands frequently.

- Disinfect any surfaces or objects that could be contaminated with a household cleaning product.

- Wash any items of clothing, bedding, or towels that could have been contaminated on a separate hot wash, to ensure the virus is killed.