Norovirus outbreak forces hospital wards to shut doors to visitors
Several hospitals across the country have asked visitors to stay away after outbreaks of the norovirus, the winter vomiting bug. Birmingham City Hospital had to close four wards, while Maidstone Hospital in Kent closed three and refused new admissions and banned visitors altogether. Also the George Eliot Hospital in Nuneaton had to turn away visitors.
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) confirmed that the number of cases of vomiting is on the rise by up to 72% this year.
They admitted that for every confirmed case there are likely to be 288 unreported sufferers. This season official figures recorded 2,630 cases, compared to 1,533 at the same time last year.
The winter bug norovirus is highly contagious and spreads quickly in environments such as schools, hospitals and care homes. It causes sudden vomiting and diarrhoea, which usually last for around two days.
Professor John Oxford, a biologist at Queen Mary’s College and Chairman of the International Hygiene Council, said: “We don’t really know why norovirus pops up its head at this time of year. All we know is that it does with some regularity more or less at the same time as influenza.”
He added: “It could be that the winter conditions drive us indoors, we are more close together and a virus like noro depends on closeness and also lack of hygiene.”
HPA norovirus expert John Harris said: “People should be vigilant in their hygiene and we would like to remind anyone who has typical symptoms suggestive of norovirus infection to avoid visiting friends or relatives in hospital or care homes.”
Norovirus has recently hit the headlines after two P&O cruise ships Oriana and Azura had serious virus outbreaks onboard.
The latter docked in Southampton yesterday with at least ten confirmed norovirus cases, while Oriana was dubbed “ P&O plague ship” after reporting that the virus hit over 400 passengers during the cruise.