Visitors urged to help stop spread of Norovirus

Strict infection control measures have been reinforced across NHS Lothian amid concerns that the winter vomiting virus is still circulating.

Higher than normal numbers of cases, for the time of year, are being reported across acute hospitals, including the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, the Western General Hospital, St John’s Hospital and the Royal Hospital for Sick Children.

Health experts are urging visitors to take extra precautions to avoid bringing the virus into wards and help to protect patients and staff.

They are being urged to wash their hands frequently before visiting a loved one and use the alcohol hand gel provided in wards to help prevent the spread of the infection.

The importance of infection control procedures, such as not wearing uniform to and from work and  regular handwashing, are also being reinforced with all staff.

And visitors and staff are also being reminded that if they have sickness or vomiting that they must stay away from hospitals, work or school, for at least 48 hours, until they are no longer contagious.

Fiona Cameron, Head of Infection, Prevention and Control, NHS Lothian, said a number of wards have been affected and that individual rooms and bases across hospitals in the area have been temporarily closed and re-opened as a result of the virus.

She added: “We’ve seen a higher than normal number of cases than we would expect at this time of year and it is having an impact on services. Bases and rooms have been closed to allow extensive deep cleans before they can safely be re-opened to other patients.

“The virus is extremely unpleasant and is highly contagious and so can spread quickly and easily. It can also cause complications for patients who are already acutely unwell.

“A person can remain contagious for up to 48 hours after their symptoms stop and so even though they may feel better, they may still be carrying the bug and passing it on to others. We are urging everyone to be sensible with basic precautions and help others stay well.”

There are simple steps people can take to avoid the spread of the virus:

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water
  • Disinfect household surfaces
  • Don’t share towels or toothbrushes
  • If you do have vomiting or diarrhoea, stay at home for at least 48 hours after you are completely clear of symptoms