Whether you are a patient, member of staff or a visitor to the hospital you can help us to reduce infections.

This page provides information about Norovirus, a mild illness which causes diarrhoea and vomiting. It also answers common questions and gives advice on what you can do to help us reduce the spread of Norovirus.

Remember this is a mild illness but can cause disruption in hospital admission processes when it spreads. There are some simple precautionary measures we can all take to stop it spreading.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms are nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Some people may also have a raised temperature, headaches and aching limbs.

Symptoms usually begin around 12 to 48 hours after becoming infected and usually will last for 12 to 60 hours. Most people make a full recovery within 1-2 days, however some people (usually the very young or elderly) may become very dehydrated and require hospital treatment.

What is the treatment for this virus?

Antibiotics are not needed to treat Norovirus; the main treatment is making sure you drink plenty of fluid.

How is it spread?

Norovirus is spread when virus particles excreted from an infected person get to the gut of another person. It can be spread by contact with an infected person (either directly or through air if the infected person is vomiting); by consuming contaminated food or water or by contact with contaminated surfaces or objects (such as toilets, tables etc). The disease is spread easily, particularly in "closed" communities like nursing homes, schools, hospitals, hotels or even cruise ships where it leads to outbreaks.

How long are people contagious?

People infected with norovirus are most contagious from the moment they begin feeling ill to at least 2-3 days after recovery.

The virus may be shed (discharged from the body through vomit or stool) for 2 weeks or more after recovery, although it is unclear whether the virus shed during this time is infectious.

Therefore, it is particularly important for people to use good hand washing and other hygienic practices after they have recently recovered from norovirus illness.

What should I do to help stop the spread of Norovirus?

The following measures help reduce the spread of Norovirus:

  • Careful hand-washing with soap and water especially before handling food, after contact with infected people, and after using the toilet
  • Cleaning and disinfecting contaminated areas promptly
  • Infected people should not prepare food for other people until at least 2 days after symptoms have stopped.
  • Patients in hospital with norovirus infection are nursed in a single room until at least 3 days after symptoms have stopped.

If you are a patient

  • Don’t be afraid to remind your nurse or doctor to wash their hands
  • Remember to wash your hands and use the alcohol gel
  • Remind your visitors of the advice above and below

If you are visitor

  • Only visit the ward if it is absolutely necessary and you are well yourself. Speak to the nurse in charge if you are unsure. This will help us to help reduce the spread of this infection.
  • Do not come into hospital if you are unwell.
  • Avoid bringing in small children to the hospital as visitors.
  • If you are visiting the ward please wash your hands and use the alcohol gel provided when you arrive on the ward and before you leave.

If I am suffering from Norovirus, how can I prevent others from becoming infected?

  • Good hygiene, including thorough hand washing after using the toilet or changing nappies. Food preparation should also be avoided until at least 48 hours after the symptoms have subsided.
  • Please do not come into the hospital if you or a household member have symptoms until 3 days after the last person has had symptoms.
  • If you are having an operation and you or a family member develops symptoms in the week before your operation, please ring the Pre-assessment Unit on 020 8401 3288 and ask to speak to the Nurse Coordinator to make a new appointment for your operation.

Avoid coming into hospital if you are suffering with vomiting or diarrhoea. Please do not visit for at least 48 hours after your symptoms have gone. This means you must have been symptom-free for two days.

Do you restrict visiting?

Purely as a precautionary measure we ask relatives and friends only to visit if it is absolutely necessary. This helps us to reduce the spread of this virus and minimise the risk to visitors who may become ill or take the virus back into the community. It also helps to allow us to clear the infection from the ward as quickly as possible. By reducing the number of people visiting, we are limiting exposure to the virus and therefore it will clear up more quickly.

There are lots of other things we do to help us restrict the spread of this virus and these include isolating patients with the infection, increasing the levels of cleaning within the area and reminding all staff, patients and visitors about the importance of hand washing and using the alcohol gel.

What should I do if I have any more questions?

If you are worried about yourself or your family  then please contact your GP or phone NHS Direct on 0845 4647.  It is vital that if you have symptoms you should seek telephone advice to reduce the risk of spreading it to others.

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