Visitors and patients can help keep Norovirus out of hospitals

Due to increased levels of Norovirus (also known as winter vomiting bug) in the community, the HSE is asking Patients and visitors suffering with symptoms of vomiting and/or diarrhoea not to visit or attend hospitals or other healthcare facilities. Instead they should telephone their GP or local pharmacist for advice in the first instance.

At this time of year, when a person develops vomiting or diarrhoea, it is quite likely to be due to gastroenteritis caused by norovirus says Dr. Paul McKeown, Specialist in Public Health Medicine at the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC).

Dr. McKeown said, "This bug, while often unpleasant, rarely causes serious problems for healthy children and adults.  Norovirus can, however, be a serious problem in hospitals and residential facilities where it can lead to ward closures, postponed operations, and, worryingly, can result in very serious illness for patients in hospital who are already weakened by other medical conditions.

“The levels of norovirus circulating in the community are highest during the winter season.  Every few years, we get unusually busy (upsurge) seasons with particularly high levels of norovirus – this season is likely to be especially busy.  The most recent upsurge season was in 2012 and, that winter, there were large numbers of outbreaks in hospitals and residential institutions, as well as in non-health care settings such as schools and hotels. 

“Although usually mild, norovirus is extremely infectious and is passed easily from one person to another.  It comes on very quickly - within hours and occasionally within minutes.  This is why we are asking people who may be suffering from vomiting and diarrhoea not to visit, or attend hospital (including outpatient appointments), as they may bring the infection into the hospital, placing ill patients at risk.

“In general, if somebody feels they may have norovirus, they should stay away from hospital, nursing komes, the GP’s surgery, hotels, restaurants, work, college and school until they have recovered and are symptom-free for 48 hours.

“Healthy adults and children who contract this infection need to rest.  There is no specific treatment for norovirus apart from sipping plenty of clear fluids such as water or flat lemonade.  The body’s defences will quickly overcome the infection on their own, and while it can be an unpleasant illness, the worst of the symptoms are over in a day or two.  Occasionally however, it can last a little longer.

“If you are concerned about yourself or someone close to you (e.g. prolonged vomiting/diarrhoea especially in small children and elderly people), then you should telephone your GP for advice and avoid bringing the sick person to the surgery to prevent the spread of infection.

“If someone in your house or workplace develops norovirus, it is important to clean up any contamination thoroughly and quickly to prevent further spread in the household or workplace. The HPSC website has advice on norovirus for the public, employers and others on managing norovirus and how to clean up after someone has been sick, “ said Dr. McKeown.

Visit the HPSC Norovirus page at http://www.hpsc.ie/A-Z/Gastroenteric/Norovirus/

There is advice for:

The HSE selfcare  website www.undertheweather.ie also provides tips and advice in relation to vomiting and diarrhoea in both children and adults. 

Last updated on: 22 / 12 / 2016