A LIMERICK pharmacist has reported a marked increase in cases of the winter vomiting bug in the community.
A blanket ban on visitors to the Mid-Western Regional Hospital remains in effect after the HSE confirmed an outbreak - with six cases of norovirus confirmed.
And John Gleeson, Woodview Pharmacy, has advised that anybody who suspects they have the violent stomach condition to contact their pharmacist for advice, preferably over the phone.
He said that while patients would have to endure a number of days of pain and discomfort while they attempt to flush out the bug itself, there were various over-the-counter drugs available to alleviate symptoms such as nausea and diarrhoea.
“We have certainly seen an increase in community pharmacy in the winter vomiting bug. You always have upset stomachs throughout the year but what we are seeing now is certainly more prevalent and more severe and very different from the standard upset stomach,” said Mr Gleeson, who is treasurer of the Irish Pharmacy Union.
“We are emphasising the importance of trying to isolate the bug and minimising contact with people. People can always ring their local pharmacist who will be more than happy to give advice on symptomatic relief if not for the bug itself. The most important part of the therapy remains plenty of rehydration and rest,” he said.
And the HSE has also advised that people who are struck with vomiting or diarrhoea should ring their GP for advice rather than presenting at the clinic.
“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,” commented a spokesman for the HSE.
“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.”
Those who suspect they have had norovirus should certainly not visit hospitals or nursing homes and should stay away from work or school for at least 48 hours after they recover.
The only exceptions to the visiting ban at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital relate to critically ill patients - and then only if permitted by the medical staff - and to the parents of sick children at the Children’s Ark.
Further information on prevention and treatment is available on the website of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (www.hspc.ie).