Norovirus is the most common cause of infectious gastroenteritis (diarrhoea and vomiting) in England and Wales. The Illness is generally mild and people usually recover fully within 2-3 days; there are no long term effects that result from being infected. Infections can occur at any age because immunity is not long lasting.
Norovirus is sometimes referred to as “Winter Vomiting Disease” due the seasonal nature of outbreaks, usually November to March, but can occur at anytime.
Norovirus is highly infectious. It is vital if you feel unwell with gastrointestinal symptoms, vomiting and or diarrhoea, that you should not visit the hospital or you’re GP but speak to them on the telephone first as any contacts increase the risk of spreading the infection. However, if symptoms persist for more than 3-4 days, then it is advised that medical attention is sought, through your GP.
How does Norovirus spread?
When people vomit or have diarrhoea, Norovirus may be passed into the environment and land on surfaces and equipment, meaning that it can be transmitted by contact with contaminated surfaces and objects. It can also be passed on by physical contact with an infected person. Norovirus spreads easily in the hospital due
to close contact between patients and staff. It is a highly infectious virus and therefore spreads quickly
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms include sudden onset of nausea followed by severe vomiting and watery diarrhoea. Some people may have a raised temperature, headaches and aching limbs
How long will the symptoms last?
Symptoms will begin around 12 to 48 hours after becoming infected. The illness is self-limiting and usually lasts 12 to 60 hours. There are no long-term effects from Norovirus.
How is Norovirus gastroenteritis treated?
There is no specific treatment for Norovirus infection; it gets better on its own. It is important to drink plenty of clear fluids to prevent dehydration. If symptoms are severe, your doctor may prescribe anti-sickness medication and/or medication to lessen the diarrhoea. Usually patients with Norovirus are nursed in isolation. This is to prevent the spread of the virus to other susceptible patients. Sometimes, if several patients have Norovirus, they will be grouped together in a ward bay
Advice for visitors
- If you have had diarrhoea or vomiting, you should not come to the hospital until you have recovered for at least 48 hours.
- You may be asked to speak to the nursing staff when you enter a ward and before you visit your friend or relative.
- If your relative or friend is affected with diarrhoea and/or vomiting, you should only visit if it is absolutely necessary.
- You must clean your hands before and after visiting a patient who has diarrhoea and/or vomiting. Use soap and water as alcohol hand rub is not effective.
- Please restrict your hospital visiting to one ward during an outbreak of Norovirus.
- Please do not visit any patients other than your own relative or friend.
- You may be asked to wear gloves and aprons when visiting a patient in an affected bay. Before leaving the bay, please ensure you remove the gloves and aprons and wash your hands with soap and water.
- If the person you are visiting has diarrhoea and/or vomiting and you are taking home clothing to wash, you should wear rubber gloves when handling the soiled clothes. A wash cycle of 65°C is recommended in a household washing machine.
- Domestic dishwashers provide the safest and most efficient way of cleaning crockery and cutlery in the home.