Public urged to avoid hospital if they have winter vomiting bug

People in Leeds are being asked to avoid going straight to hospital or visiting their GP if they have norovirus, the winter vomiting bug, and instead get telephone advice from the NHS.

The advice has been issued by the local NHS in an effort to reduce the spread of the bug which can have a significant impact on the delivery of local healthcare services. In recent days there has been a rise in cases of norovirus in Leeds which has led to the appeal for people to steer clear of hospital and call NHS 111 instead.

The three clinical commissioning groups in Leeds, (NHS Leeds North CCG, NHS Leeds South and Leeds CCG, NHS Leeds West CCG) are raising awareness of the illness which affects more than one million people nationally each year. Norovirus is the biggest cause of infectious gastroenteritis in the UK and is more likely to spread in places where people are in close proximity to one another such as hospitals, schools and nursing homes.

Dr Simon Stockill, GP and NHS Leeds West CCG’s Medical Director, says: “Norovirus is common at this time of year and is a particularly unpleasant bug which causes sickness and diarrhoea. The challenge to reduce the spread of norovirus in the community is a tough one because it is highly infectious and passes easily from person to person, particularly in the winter months when people are likely to spend longer together indoors.”

“Essentially, good hygiene is the key to reducing the spread of norovirus as well as other bugs like coughs and colds. Really the most important thing people can do is wash their hands thoroughly after going to the toilet and before preparing food. Diarrhoea and vomiting is unpleasant but is usually not dangerous, especially in working-age adults.”

The simple steps that can be taken to reduce the spread to norovirus and other bugs are:

  • Wash your hands with antibacterial soap and water, particularly before eating and after going to the toilet. Avoid preparing food for other people but if you really have to, make sure you wash your hands and thoroughly clean fruit and vegetables before cooking
  • Stay at home. Generally there is no need to visit your GP or local hospital unless a medical professional has advised you to. If you or a relative is experiencing sickness and diarrhoea, drink plenty of fluids and try to eat foods that are easy to digest such as soup, bread, pasta and rice. Babies should be given their normal feed.
  • Children and older people can be more severely affected by norovirus. If you are concerned about yours or a friend or relative’s symptoms then contact NHS 111 or visit the NHS website.
  • Avoid hospital visits. People in hospital are already ill and may be more severely affected if they get norovirus because it can stop some medicines from working properly. If you or a close friend, work colleague or relative has experienced sickness or diarrhoea in the last 72 hours then it is essential to avoid visiting the hospital.
  • Don’t go to work until at least 48 hours after the symptoms have stopped. Before this time you are still contagious and could pass the illness on to your colleagues.
  • Do your laundry on a 60 degree centigrade cycle to get rid of any bacteria lingering on clothing and bedding. Also remember to disinfect toilets, basins, sinks and door handles regularly with an antibacterial household cleaning product.