Beating the bug this winter


Norovirus, also called the ‘winter vomiting bug’, is a type of viral gastro-enteritis that causes vomiting and diarrhoea.

Cases are common across our region in the winter months and staff need to be fully aware of the symptoms and the precautions needed to prevent spreading this infection. 

The virus is easily spread – as few as 10 virus particles can cause an infection.
The virus may be spread via contaminated food, or person-to-person.
About 50-60% of those exposed to the virus will develop symptoms, some remain asymptomatic but can pass the infection to others.

Norovirus outbreaks often happen in places where there are high densities of people: schools, nurseries, prisons, care homes – and hospitals. Hospital outbreaks can cause ward closures, major disruption to hospital activity and in severe outbreaks, cause entire hospitals can be closed to admissions.
One of the primary causes of hospital outbreaks is the admission of undiagnosed patients. Self-referring patients and those transported by ambulance are a particular risk.

The incubation period is usually 12-48 hours but this may vary depending on the strain of the virus. The main symptom is the sudden onset of nausea followed by vomiting and / or diarrhoea. The duration is usually 24 -72 hours.

Protecting yourself and reducing risk of spread
Apply standard hygiene precautions and use enteric and airborne precautions.
Carry out good hand hygiene – alcohol gel is not effective against norovirus.
Hand washing with liquid soap and water should be used wherever possible.
Where hand washing facilities are not available, use Clinell sanitising wipes to wipe the hands thoroughly then use alcohol sanitiser.

What to do if you develop symptoms

  • Do not work if you have symptoms of vomiting or diarrhoea.
    Stay off work until you have been symptom-free for 48 hours without the aid of medication.
  • Inform occupational health of your illness. This helps alert us to potential operational issues caused by staff sickness.
  • Maintain scrupulous hand hygiene on return to work for seven to 10 days after the end of symptoms.
  • It is acceptable to continue working if your family members are symptomatic as long as you have no symptoms.

clinical update with more information about preventing Norovirus (including detailed information for clinicians) and  is available East24 website.

Published 10th January 2019

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