When it comes to norovirus, sharing isn’t caring

With NHS Boards across the country reporting an increase in norovirus outbreaks recently, NHS Ayrshire & Arran’s Infection Prevention and Control Team is asking people in Ayrshire to be mindful of the increased risk of norovirus, also known as the winter vomiting bug, as winter approaches. Norovirus is the most common stomach bug in the UK. 

It is estimated that between 600,000 and one million people in the UK are affected by norovirus each year. Around half of those exposed will also become sick. 

It is more serious and more easily spread among people who are already ill. Bob Wilson, Infection Control Manager – NHS Ayrshire & Arran, warns: “Norovirus is highly contagious and although it is present all year round, it becomes more common in the winter when people stay indoors for longer and in larger groups. “It is really important that we protect patients in hospital and care homes from norovirus. We need everyone to take responsibility and help to reduce the risk of outbreaks. 

You can do this by staying at home for at least 48 hours after symptoms of diarrhoea and vomiting have ended and by encouraging the people around you to do the same, be that family, friends, or work colleagues. 

This is very important for people thinking about visiting loved ones in hospital or care homes. Please wait till you are fully recovered before visiting. 

We know this is difficult, but norovirus can be more serious for those who are already ill.

Bob adds: “If there has been an outbreak in a hospital or care home where your relative or loved one is staying, only visit if it’s absolutely necessary, and visit only one person. Do not bring young children to visit. Avoid eating and drinking while you’re there, and as always, wash your hands before and after your visit.” It can take 12 to 48 hours after becoming infected with the virus to show symptoms. You may be infectious to other people during this time. 

Symptoms usually start with nausea followed by violent vomiting and/or diarrhoea. 

You may also get a fever, headache or aching limbs. 

Although it is unpleasant and there is no cure for it, it is not usually dangerous. 

You will most likely feel better after it has run its course in a few days. The only real risk is dehydration which you can avoid by making sure you drink lots of liquid. Don't go to see your family doctor (GP), as there's nothing your GP can do while you have it and you could infect other people during your visit. Only contact your GP to seek advice if your symptoms last longer than a few days or if you already have a serious illness. You can reduce the risk by following the Infection Prevention and Control Team’s top tips when anyone in your household has norovirus. • Wash your hands frequently particularly after using the toilet and before eating or preparing food.

• Ensure that all surfaces are kept clean using bleach-based cleaners, especially after a person has vomited.

• Launder soiled clothes on as hot a wash as possible for the type of clothing. 

Do not overfill your washing machine or it will not clean them properly. 

Do not hand-wash soiled clothing as tiny droplets of water containing the virus can be dispersed in the air, contaminating you and the environment. • When you are ill, avoid preparing food for other people if you can. • Don’t share towels, flannels or toothbrushes For more information about norovirus, visit Health Protection Scotland’s website, www.hps.scot.nhs.uk. 

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