Health bosses in Lincolnshire have urged people who have recently suffered from diarrhoea, vomiting or flu-like symptoms to stay away from the County’s hospitals in order to keep patients and staff safe this Christmas.
Lincoln County Hospital has had to close three wards to admissions and restrict admissions to four more, because a number of patients and staff have symptoms of the virulent winter vomiting bug known as norovirus.
The closure and restricted admissions to wards is a precaution to prevent the spread of the virus and the beds will reopen for admissions once the patients have either been discharged and/or the area has been symptom free for 72 hours.
Michelle Rhodes, Director of Nursing at United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust said: “The virus is not uncommon in the winter. These stomach bugs are highly contagious and can spread rapidly in places like hospitals who see hundreds of visitors every day.
“We need to make sure that we protect vulnerable patients and hospital staff so we are asking people to think carefully before visiting hospital if they or anyone in their family has had even mild symptoms of stomach upset in the last 72 hours.
“We know that sometimes people feel that they must take every opportunity to visit their sick friends or relatives, particularly at Christmas. However if they have been unwell, they could be putting others at risk. Symptoms of norovirus include diarrhoea and vomiting and, just like flu, the virus can seriously affect vulnerable patients.
“If you have norovirus symptoms, please do not attend A&E. The best thing you can do is rest, and take plenty of non-caffeinated drinks to avoid dehydration.”
South West Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group is adding to the warning to patients and their family members.
It can be exacerbated by colder weather and be particularly serious for people who are already ill or who have a long term condition.
Good hand hygiene can help to limit the spread of infection and there are some simple steps the public can take to help stop the virus spreading:
• wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water, particularly after using the toilet and before preparing food
• if you’re in an NHS facility pay attention to hand hygiene notices such as using hand gel upon entering sand exiting a ward
• disinfect any surfaces or objects that could be contaminated with norovirus. It is best to use a bleach-based household cleaner and follow the instructions on the product
• flush away any infected faeces or vomit in the toilet. You should also keep the surrounding toilet area clean and hygienic
• wash any clothing or linens which could have become contaminated with norovirus washing with hot, soapy water.
Although people usually recover without treatment in 24-72 hours, it is important to stay away from work, school, college or social gatherings until you have been symptom free for at least 48 hours.
Dr Vindi Bhandal, Chair of South West Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group said: “Norovirus is highly infectious and easily spread through hand to hand contact, or by touching surfaces which have germs on them.
“The infection usually starts suddenly and the symptoms pass quickly. It can more seriously affect those patients who are already unwell or those who have significant underlying medical conditions.”
She added: “If you think you may have the illness it is important to stay away from hospitals, GP surgeries and care homes for at least 48 hours after your symptoms have stopped to avoid spreading it to people who may have underlying health conditions and already be vulnerable.
“We know that sometimes visitors feel they must take every opportunity to visit sick friends or relatives. However, if they themselves have been unwell, they could be putting others at risk. If you’re unsure whether to visit, please feel free to contact the ward nurse before you come into hospital.”
-For more information about norovirus, visit: http://www.hpa.org.uk/Topics/InfectiousDiseases/InfectionsAZ/Norovirus/
-For more information on winter health, visit the NHS Choices website at http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/winterhealth/Pages/Winterhealthhome.aspx