Hospital hit by winter vomiting bug

FIVE WARDS have been closed at a Suffolk hospital after more than 150 patients and staff were struck down with the highly infectious "winter vomiting virus.

FIVE WARDS have been closed at a Suffolk hospital after more than 150 patients and staff were struck down with the highly infectious "winter vomiting virus."

And visitors bearing the symptoms of the bug have been asked to stay away from the West Suffolk Hospital, Bury St Edmunds, to stop further contamination.

Since mid-October, 112 patients and 39 staff have contracted Norovirus, commonly known as winter vomiting virus, which is highly infectious and causes vomiting and diarrhoea, lasting from 24 to 48 hours.

A spokesman for the hospital confirmed that five wards had been closed to new admissions, although one of them was due to re-open yesterday as a means of isolating the bug.

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Dr Liz Wright, consultant microbiologist and infection control doctor, explained that the wards had been closed in order to contain the bug, as there were too many victims to be able to place them in isolation.

However, she said intensive cleaning measures had been introduced and visitors were still welcome as long as they observed hygiene measures as advised by hospital staff.

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She said: "While we love our patients to have friends or relatives to visit, we are urging people not to come to the hospital if they, or any members of the family, have or have had any symptoms of vomiting in the previous 48 hours.

"Norovirus is very common in the community and although it is not life threatening, it is highly infectious and not very pleasant."

Dr Wright said the hospital also wished to reassure people who might be afraid to visit relatives for fear of contracting the virus while in hospital.

She said: "We are able to contain the virus, - what we cannot control is people bringing it in - but it is easily passed on through hand contact, and staff are wearing gloves and aprons.

"As long as people thoroughly wash their hands upon entering and leaving wards as instructed by staff it's perfectly safe."

The virus occurs throughout the country annually, according to Dr Wright, and is very common in the community at large rather than merely in hospitals.

But it has no lasting effects and is "a nuisance" rather than a cause for deep concern.

However, she said with a higher number of hospital admissions expected during the winter months, the virus could prevent beds being freed up at a time of high demand.

She advised anyone who thinks they may have contracted the bug to stay at home, drinks lots of liquids and if they become increasingly concerned to contact their GP.

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