HSE Appeals To The Public To Prevent Spreading Of Vomiting Bug

The HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has today asked members of the public to respect hospital visit restrictions and to follow hand hygiene directions when visiting patients following a recent increase in winter vomiting bug cases.

One hundred and ninety cases of winter vomiting bug, also known as norovirus, were notified to HPSC during the week before last, while a further 115 cases were notified last week according to HPSC specialist in public health medicine, Dr Paul McKeown.

He said: "In addition, we have been getting numerous reports of outbreaks affecting hospitals, nursing homes and hotels around the country.

"In a normal week 50 cases would be regarded as high number of notifications so we are in an upsurge period.

"Norovirus is the gastrointestinal equivalent of the common cold. In any year at least 1% - and in high activity years up to 5% - of the population can expect to be affected by this virus meaning that between 1,000 and 5,000 people could fall ill with norovirus per week during a busy period.

"Members of the public can help stop the spread of illness by respecting hospital and nursing home visitor restrictions and by using the alcohol gel supplied as they enter and leave the facilities. While Out Patient Departments and Emergency Departments are not affected, patients are asked not to attend hospital if they have been affected by vomiting and/or diarrhoea in the last 48 hours. Handwashing with soap and water - especially after contact with someone who is ill and after using the toilet - is also extremely important, particularly if you are or have been sick.

"When it gets into hospitals or nursing homes, it can cause serious disruption, for example ward closures, cancelled operations and added pressure on emergency departments. It is important that ill and vulnerable patients in these settings do not become more ill than they already are.

"Norovirus is highly infectious and very resilient. It is capable of spreading from person-to-person, by food and water, via surfaces and through the air. It can survive for a number of weeks in the environment and on surfaces such as door handles, toilet pulls, TV remote controls, light switches or worktops.

"Norovirus does not usually cause serious illness, but it is very easily spread. People who contract it can be infectious for 48 hours after they recover. The principal symptoms are nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea and generally begin very suddenly with nausea followed by projectile vomiting. A little later watery diarrhoea may develop as well."


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