Watch out! The winter vomiting bug is about

The vulnerable and those with long-term health conditions in south west Essex should take extra care to avoid norovirus also known as the winter vomiting bug.

For most people the condition is an unpleasant experience which requires plenty of fluids and rest. However for people who are already ill or vulnerable such as the elderly, very young, those in hospital or those with long term conditions, norovirus can have a much greater impact.

Dr Arv Guniyangodage, incoming Chair at Basildon and Brentwood Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “Most people make a full recovery within one or two days from the norovirus – but this is not the case for everyone. For patients already ill in hospital or those with long term conditions, this virus can cause further health complications. It is vital therefore to prevent the spread of the condition to help protect ourselves and protect others.”

In 2015 there were more than 650 outbreaks of norovirus in hospitals in England and 94 per cent of these led to the closure of wards or restrictions on wards.

The symptoms of norovirus begin around 12 to 72 hours after the patient picks up the infection and can usually last for 12 to 60 hours, but sometimes longer.

Most people start with feeling nauseous, often followed by being sick. Many patients will also get watery diarrhoea, a raised temperature, headaches and aching limbs or flu like symptoms.

Dr Guniyangodage – who is a GP at the New Surgery in Brentwood – added: “Public places like hospitals, schools and offices, are susceptible to outbreaks and people should stay at home until they are free of the symptoms – as it is a virus, it cannot be treated with antibiotics.”

There are some simple steps to prevent the spread of norovirus:

  • Stay off work or school until at least 48 hours after the symptoms have passed.
  • Don’t visit loved ones in hospital – you risk passing on the condition to those whose health is already compromised. They may not be able to deal with the symptoms as well as you.
  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water. And make sure you take the time to dry them properly. Wet hands can harbour germs.
  • Disinfect any surfaces or objects that could be contaminated, such as hard surfaces toilet handles and taps, and don’t share towels and flannels.
  • Wash any items of clothing or bedding that could have become contaminated separately on a hot wash to ensure the virus is killed.

Remember if you do start to feel unwell with sickness and diarrhoea, drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Avoid attending your GP or hospital in the first instance as sitting in a waiting room increases the danger of passing it onto others. Your local pharmacist can advise you on the best course of action and recommend over the counter remedies that work with any medication you’re already taking. You can also call the NHS 111 service who will advise you on what you should do.

Find more information on Staying Well this Winter