Friday, 6 December 2013

NHS warning about winter vomiting bug

NHS Ayrshire & Arran's Infection Control Team is reminding locals that we're approaching the time of year commonly known as 'winter vomiting' season.

The winter vomiting bug – officially known as the Norovirus - is the most common cause of stomach and gut upsets (non-bacterial gastroenteritis).  It is easily spread, so the advice for anyone who becomes infected is stay away from work or school, and avoid visiting relatives or friends in hospital until you have been free of symptoms for 48 hours.

The first signs of Norovirus infection begin to emerge around 15 to 50 hours after picking-up the bug and usually start with nausea followed by projectile vomiting and/or diarrhoea.  In addition, some people may have a fever, headache or aching limbs.  Symptoms normally last from 12-60 hours and most people make a full recovery in one or two days.

Bob Wilson, Infection Control Manager with NHS Ayrshire & Arran, said, “People of any age can be affected by Norovirus, but the elderly and very young are particularly at risk.  So if you have had symptoms of diarrhoea and vomiting and have relatives in hospital or a care home, please don't visit them until you are free of symptoms for 48 hours.  And if you have a relative in a hospital or care home where there is an outbreak of Norovirus, please only visit if it's absolutely necessary, and visit only one person.  We also ask you not to bring young children to visit, to avoid eating and drinking while you're there, and to wash your hands before and after your visit.”

Humans are the only known carriers of the Norovirus.  It can spread from person to person, but the environment and surfaces can also become contaminated.  Bob Wilson explained, “Although person-to-person spread is most common, the virus can easily be spread in the environment if contaminated - for example, it can survive for seven days on furnishings and hard surfaces and for up to ten days on food in a refrigerator.”

Hand washing is the single best defence against the spread of Norovirus.  Mr Wilson noted, “The most important method of preventing its spread is to ensure everyone washes their hands with plenty of soap and hot water, particularly after using the toilet.”

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