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article imageU.K. hospital wards close as cases of winter norovirus soar

By JohnThomas Didymus     Dec 19, 2011 in Health
Hospital wards are being forced to close down in Britain in effort to contain spread of the winter vomiting bug norovirus. Cases of the infection which causes vomiting and diarrhea are spreading and have been reported in more than a dozen hospitals.
Health officials are warning that the virus could continue spreading with forecasts of cold winter ahead. It is estimated that as many as one million are infected every year during winter season. The virus infection is most common among people living in crowded places such as hospital wards and hostels. Norovirus infection may be fatal especially when the infected personal is already debilitated.
Daily Mail reports that hospitals in London, Warwick, Redditch, Doncaster, Winchester, Bedford and Newport in Wales have closed their wards following outbreaks. On the Isle of Wight, people with the infection have been told not to come to hospital but should rather be treated at home.
The Telegraph reports that the virus has affected 35 hospitals and 27 wards were shut in the past two weeks to control further spread of the virus. The incidence of infection in Britain from July to mid-December this year is19 percent higher than last year.
According to The Telegraph, Maurcie Madeo, deputy director of infection prevention and control at Doncaster Royal Infirmary that was closed after cases of the virus, said: "We can't be too careful about limiting the spread of all infections. An infection on top of another medical condition can prove fatal to sick, frail patients. So we all need to be mindful of the need for best practice in personal hygiene."
Eiri Jones, director of nursing and patient services at Bedford hospital warned visitors not to sit on hospital beds and to avoid visiting hospitals, especially if they had been ill in the preceding 72 hours. Mr Jones said: "I cannot stress the importance of this enough. Norovirus is extremely contagious and is easily passed through person-to-person contact, unwashed hands, touching surfaces and through virus particles carried in the air."
BBC reports that Jones said: "We are doing our utmost to prevent norovirus spreading across the hospital. Please help us by observing visiting restrictions, not visiting if it's not essential for you to do so, ensuring you wash your hands with soap and water, not sitting on beds and not coming in if you have been ill yourself."
According to Carol Alstrom, chief nurse at St Mary's Hospital, on the Isle of Wight: "It is vitally important for people to keep away from hospital and nursing or residential care homes if they have been unwell with vomiting and or diarrhea recently."
A Health Protection Agency spokesman also advised: "Anyone who thinks they may have norovirus should not go to their doctor’s surgery or A&E as this could spread the illness to vulnerable people and healthcare workers. People who are unwell should ensure they take plenty of drinks to replace lost fluids."
Professor of microbiology at Aberdeen University Hugh Pennington, said that in-spite of improvements in medicine, treatment of novovirus infection has not improved in the past century. The emeritus professor said: "We have to fall back on traditional barrier nursing – isolation of patients and treating their symptoms, all things we could have done 100 years ago. For most people, norovirus is mild. But for the very elderly and the elderly with other health problems, it is the last straw for some of them."
Norovirus outbreaks are most common in winter. The virus is highly contagious and survives long periods on household furniture and other household items. The symptoms of infection are vomiting, diarrhea, raised temperature, headaches, stomach cramps and aching limbs.
Some experts are worried about the emergence of a new and even more virulent strain of the virus.
More about winter virus, Norovirus, Hospitals
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