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Norovirus advice

Published: 26 Nov 2015 14:20

Advice to protect against norovirus this winter.

Scots were today urged to take some basic precautions to prevent Norovirus, which is also known as the winter vomiting bug, from spreading.

Following the start of this year's norovirus season, Scotland's Chief Medical Officer and Chief Nursing Officer have urged people to follow a few simple precautions to protect more vulnerable friends and family.

This includes the very young, the elderly and the sick along with people in hospitals and care homes.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Catherine Calderwood said:

"Norovirus, or the winter vomiting bug, is a common virus affecting all age groups - particularly the frail, the elderly and the young. Although it is highly infectious and unpleasant, most people make a full recovery within two to three days with no complications.

"Rates of norovirus fluctuate from year to year with occasional spikes so we cannot estimate how severe this winter season will be. However we remain vigilant and ready to cope with whatever the winter has in store."

Chief Nursing Officer Fiona McQueen added:

"The symptoms of norovirus usually clear up in a couple of days and are generally not serious. However, diarrhoea can be serious in babies and the elderly because of the risk of dehydration. If diarrhoea is persistent or there are other symptoms such as bleeding you should contact your GP.

"The Scottish Government and NHS boards monitor norovirus outbreaks closely throughout the year, taking every step to minimise its impact on people who use and work in our hospitals.

"But there are simple steps that everyone can take to prevent the spread of the virus including washing your hands properly. If you have vomiting or diarrhoea you should not go to school or work until 48 hours after your symptoms have ended.

"There may also be times when hospitals or care homes will ask you not to visit during an outbreak to prevent further spread of the virus. During the winter season please check with the hospital or care home before you go to visit.

"Temporarily suspending visiting to affected wards allows infection prevention and control teams to monitor the situation and also reduce, as much as possible, the chance of norovirus being passed onto a relative or loved one or transferred between patients and visitors".

If you do catch the winter vomiting bug the advice is:

  • Drink plenty of non-alcoholic, non-milky liquid to replace lost fluids
  • Take oral rehydration solution to replace lost salts and fluids
  • Make sure your hands are clean to prevent the illness spreading
  • Don't prepare food for other people especially babies or older people

Notes to editors

More information on the winter vomiting bug (norovirus) is available from NHS Inform on http://www.nhsinform.co.uk/health-library/articles/n/norovirus/introduction

The Chief Medical Officer and Chief Nursing Officer Top tips for preventing infection are available at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Health/Services/Preventing-Healthcare-Infections/Infection-Monitoring/Preventing-Infection

People in hospitals and care homes are vulnerable to norovirus every winter because infection with norovirus does not provide lasting immunity.

Substantial preparation for winter including work to minimize the frequency and size of outbreaks of norovirus is taken every year across NHSScotland.

It is important to remember that closing wards is an outbreak control measure designed to minimise further spread.

Some of the preparation work undertaken every year includes:

  • Preparation for the next Norovirus season starts as soon as the current season ends.
  • As soon as HPS announces the official start of Norovirus season, key infection prevention control staff in NHS Boards, consultants in public health medicine and the Care Inspectorate are alerted.
  • A significant amount of work is undertaken by NHS Boards to prepare for winter; they alert patients and the public to ward closures through local news releases and information posted on their hospital websites.
  • Publication of Health Protection Scotland's (HPS) significant national guidance on preparing and managing Norovirus in hospitals and care homes every year with scientific evidence reviewed and the guidance changed as required to reflect lessons learned and the latest and best practice.
  • A proactive national communications campaign led by HPS and funded by the Scottish Government to ensure public awareness detailing information on Norovirus, including prevention and self-care so that everyone can do their bit to prevent the spread of the virus.