Winter vomiting increase across the North West

Date published: 22 January 2009

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) North West has repeated its plea to people with norovirus infection, so-called winter vomiting, not to attend GP surgeries or hospital Accident and Emergency Units to avoid the risk of passing on infection to more vulnerable patients.

The Agency is also urging people with the winter vomiting bug not to visit friends or relatives in hospitals or residential care homes and to stay away from work or school until they have recovered and been symptom-free for 48 hours.

Dr. Vinay Bothra with the HPA’s Greater Manchester Health Protection Unit, said: “Norovirus is the most common cause of gastro-intestinal infection in the UK with up to one million cases recorded every year. It is particularly prevalent in the winter months.

“Norovirus infection is an unpleasant but short-lived illness from which the majority of people, even the frail elderly, will recover quite naturally in 12 to 60 hours without any treatment other than rest and the replacement of lost fluids. However, it is a highly infectious illness that spreads rapidly when introduced to closed environments such as hospitals, residential care homes, cruise ships, schools and work places.

“That is why we are strongly advising people with “winter vomiting” not to visit GP surgeries or hospital Accident & Emergency units. People with symptoms should stay at home, ensure that their personal hygiene is good, particularly hand-washing, and avoid contact with others.

“However, if symptoms persist the patient should ring NHS Direct for advice or arrange a telephone consultation with the family GP.”

The NHS Direct number is 0845-4647.

The Agency’s advice for preventing the spread of norovirus infection is:

Wash hands thoroughly and regularly at all times, but particularly after toilet visits and before eating.

Do not handle or prepare food for other people until you have been symptom free for a minimum period of 48 hours.

Stay away from work or school until you have been free of symptoms for at least 48 hours.

Do not visit friends or relatives in hospitals or residential care homes as there is a real risk that you would introduce the infection to the establishment.

Do not visit your GP surgery or local A&E Unit. Norovirus infection is a self-limiting illness and you will recover naturally without treatment. It is, however, important to take plenty of drinks to replace lost fluids. If symptoms persist, phone NHS Direct or your family doctor for advice.

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