AS winter begins to bite, the HSE has issued advice on how to contain the norovirus, or winter vomiting bug.
Dr Anne Dee, public health specialist with the HSE in Limerick and the Mid-West, has advised that while the virus does not ususally cause serious illness, it can cause significant disruption in the health service.
An outbreak last month resulted in visitor restrictions on wards at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital.
And as cases in the community rise with the dip in temperature, the HSE has issued guidelines on how people can help curtail the spread when visiting hospitals and nursing homes.
“Norovirus is a common cause of gastroenteritis; it 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,” commented Dr Dee.
“When it gets into hospitals or nursing homes, it can cause serious disruption, for example ward closures, cancelled operations and added pressure on A&E. It is important that ill and vulnerable patients in these settings do not become more ill than they already are. So please co-operate with your local hospital or nursing home policy on visiting.”
People who have recently had episodes of vomiting or diarrhoea are advised not to visit a hospital or nursing home until they have been well for at least 48 hours. A similar waiting period is advised in respect of workers out sick with such symptoms as well as for children before sending them back to school or the crèche. Regular handwashing is advised in the home after using the toilet or preparing food.
“There is no specific treatment for norovirus apart from sipping plenty of clear fluids such as water or flat lemonade,” a HSE spokesperson said.
“Symptoms will usually last only a day or two but can, occasionally last longer. If you are concerned - for example prolonged vomiting or diarrhoea especially in small children and elderly people - telephone your GP for advice to reduce the possibility of bringing norovirus into the GP surgery.”