Cases of norovirus – we must all remain vigilant
There has been an increase in the cases of norovirus this summer. It is vital that we all remain vigilant in recognising the symptoms, knowing what precautions to put in place to prevent the spread, and informing the IP&C team of any suspected or confirmed cases.
- The illness lasts two or three days and the person can have diarrhoea (type 5, 6 or 7 on the Bristol Stool Chart), vomiting or both
- Loss of appetite or feeling sick
- A high temperature
- Headache or aching limbs
- Dehydration due to diarrhoea, vomiting or patients not drinking enough.
How is norovirus spread:
Once a person has diarrhoea and/or vomiting it can be spread easily by contact with contaminated:
- Equipment and objects
- Surfaces and the environment
- Hands of health care workers, other patients, relatives, visitors due to poor hand hygiene.
Be aware even when someone has stopped being ill it can continue to be spread for another 48 hours.
If you suspect that a patient may have norovirus:
If a patient has two or more episodes of unexplained (no apparent cause) diarrhoea (types 5, 6 and 7) then a stool sample should be obtained and sent for testing as soon as possible.
Inpatients must be isolated immediately and placed under barrier precautions until stools have returned to normal for over 48 hours. The illness is usually mild and is self-limiting (gets better without the need for any medication).
In order to prevent the spread of norovirus:
- Isolating patients who are in hospital and using barrier precautions
- Washing hands with soap and water, do not use alcohol hand rub as this is not effective against norovirus
- Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) – gloves and aprons when caring for patients with diarrhoea and vomiting
- Keeping the environment clean with enhanced cleaning, three times daily if in hospital using Actichlor (chlorine solution)
- Treating linen as infectious and handling with care
- Reviewing any other medication that patients are taking and stopping any if necessary e.g. laxatives
- Babies and young children should not visit as they may pick up the virus more easily and become unwell
- Visitors should not come to the ward if they are unwell with diarrhoea and vomiting.