Doctors and nurses prepare for surge in cases of winter vomiting bug

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Doctors and nurses prepare for surge in cases of winter vomiting bug
02 December 2016

A NATIONAL surge in reported cases of the winter vomiting bug, known as Norovirus, has prompted hospitals run by The Pennine Acute Hospitals Trust to support the advice by Public Health England and prepare its own doctors and nurses for a potential local surge in the run up to Christmas.

To prevent the spread of Norovirus, the general public are also being asked not to come and visit friends and relatives in hospital if they have had diarrhoea or vomiting in the past 48 hours, or are suffering from a flu-like illness.

Patients who are due to come in to hospital, but have had either diarrhoea and/or vomiting in the previous 48 hours are also being asked to contact us first for advice, so we can make appropriate arrangements.

Figures from Public Health England show 45 per cent more cases at this point when compared with the same time last year, with 1,495 laboratory reports so far nationally this winter; and it is predicted that as more cases are counted this figure will increase.

Services are already overstretched at the Trust, which manages The Royal Oldham Hospital, North Manchester General Hospital, Fairfield General Hospital in Bury, and Rochdale Infirmary as well as community services, so preparing ahead of a local surge in Norovirus is key.

Norovirus is highly contagious and spreads rapidly in closed environments such as hospital wards and departments, and other community environments such as schools, colleges and care homes. As such, the Trust has issued guidance to all its Senior Charge Nurses and Consultants today asking them to be vigilant for diarrhoea and vomiting (D&V) episodes or outbreaks.

Staff are being reminded that it is recommended that all patients admitted should be clinically assessed for Norovirus symptoms regardless of the reason for admission.

They are also being told that patients with a suspected Norovirus infection should be isolated in a single room with dedicated equipment, and to inform a member of the Trust’s highly trained Infection Control Team for further advice.

Staff washing their hands with soap and water is also a key way to stop the spread of Norovirus as well as ensuring that no patient food is left out on bedside lockers as this could become infected.

Claire Chadwick, Head Nurse for Infection Control at The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust said:

“We are asking all staff to be vigilant to assess all patients on admission for a recent history or current symptoms of Norovirus. The illness is starting to spread widely in our community population. In recent days a national increase of 45 percent in cases was highlighted and many hospitals are reporting ward closures.

“We always expect to see more cases of Norovirus as we approach winter however, we have seen a sudden increase in the last few days in our community care homes. It is therefore vital that all our staff follow the key rules to protect themselves, their families, and especially our patients, and that we are prepared to manage any cases safely and prevent further spread to other wards or departments.”

Public Health England’s advice for patients who think they may have norovirus or winter vomiting is:

  • Norovirus infection is a self-limiting illness and you will usually recover naturally without treatment. It is, however, important to take plenty of drinks to replace lost fluids.
  • Visit the NHS Choices website at www.nhs.uk for advice on how to manage your symptoms at home or help to access the most appropriate health service.
  • If symptoms persist, ask for a telephone consultation with your family doctor. Avoid visiting your GP surgery or local A&E Unit as you may pass the infection on to others.
  • Wash hands thoroughly and regularly at all times, but particularly after using the toilet and before eating.
  • Do not visit friends or relatives in hospitals or residential care homes until you have fully recovered and have been free of symptoms for at least 48 hours as there is a real risk that you would introduce the infection into these communities putting vulnerable people at risk.
  • Stay away from work or school until you have fully recovered and been free of symptoms for 48 hours.
  • Do not handle or prepare food for other people until you have been free of symptoms for at least 48 hours.

A leaflet on how to stop the spread of Norovirus can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/322947/Stop_norovirus_spreading_this_winter_leaflet.pdf

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