NHS Ayrshire & Arran’s Infection Prevention and Control Team is urging the local community to be aware of the increased risk of norovirus this winter.
Norovirus, also known as the winter vomiting bug, causes diarrhoea and vomiting, and is one of the most common stomach bugs in the UK. It is estimated that between 600,000 and one million people in the UK catch norovirus. Although you can catch it at any time of the year, it is most common in the winter and can affect people of all ages. It is more serious and more easily spread among people who are already ill.
The symptoms are very distinctive. You’re likely to have norovirus if you experience suddenly feeling sick, projectile vomiting and/or watery diarrhoea.
Some people also have a slight fever, headaches, painful stomach cramps and aching limbs. The only real risk is dehydration which you can avoid by making sure you drink lots of liquid.
The symptoms appear one to two days after you become infected and typically last for up to two or three days. You are infectious to other people whilst you have symptoms and in the two days after you have recovered.
Bob Wilson, Infection Control Manager – NHS Ayrshire & Arran, explains: “The most important thing to remember is that norovirus spreads easily, particularly in public places such as hospitals, nursing homes and schools. The best thing you can do if you have symptoms of diarrhoea and vomiting, is stay at home.
“Stay away from school or work for 48 hours after your last episode. And please don’t visit relatives in hospital or care homes until you are free of symptoms for 48 hours.”
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, of course, wash your hands before and after your visit.”
You can reduce the risk by following the infection prevention and control team’s top tips.
• Make sure you rinse fruit and vegetables before eating them.
• Keep all surfaces where you prepare food, and in your bathroom as clean as possible using bleach based cleaners.
• Try not to share towels, flannels or toothbrushes.
• Ensure that all surfaces are kept clean, 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.
• While you are ill, avoid preparing food for other people if you can.
• Cook raw shellfish before consumption and wash all fruit if it is to be eaten raw.
• Stay at home – don’t go to see your family doctor (GP) because norovirus is contagious and there’s nothing your GP can do while you have it.
• Only contact your GP to seek advice if your symptoms last longer than a few days or if you already have a serious illness.
For more information about Norovirus, visit Health Protection Scotland’s website, www.hps.scot.nhs.uk.