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Vomiting bug strikes 75 patients and staff

Image of hands being washed with soap and water

The winter vomiting bug – also known as norovirus – is continuing to affect our hospitals.

A total of 75 staff and patients currently have or have had symptoms over the last fortnight, with wards closed to new admissions at all three of our acute hospitals and at Gorseinon Hospital.

Norovirus has been confirmed in a number of those cases.

In addition, at least two care homes in the community have been affected by the bug and have been closed to new admissions as a result.

Swansea Bay University Health Board Infection Prevention and Control Matron Joanne Walters, pictured left, is urging the public to help control the spread of the virus, which is very easily passed from person to person, by:

  • Washing their hands regularly with soap and water (hand sanitizers do not work against norovirus)
  • Staying away from hospitals and other busy, communal areas like supermarkets if you are unwell (or caring for someone with the bug), even if the symptoms are mild or abating, for at least 48 but up to 72 hours
  • Managing symptoms at home with over-the-counter medicines such as paracetamol and by maintaining hydration by having small, regular amounts of fluid, preferably water or rehydration remedies. You can also dial NHS Direct on 111 for advice if you are unwell. Do not come to ED.

“This is the norovirus season traditionally so we would expect to see it circulating,” she said.

“We just need people to be aware that they don’t need to present themselves to hospital if they have this virus. They can manage their symptoms at home and reduce the spread of infection by not going to communal areas.

“Even when your symptoms stop you continue to be infectious, you continue to shed the virus for up to 48 hours, and as long as 72 hours, afterwards.”

Addressing concerns voiced by the public over staff wearing uniforms in public, Joanne said staff are not permitted to wear their uniforms in public areas, e.g. supermarkets.

However, they are allowed to travel back and forth to work, including on public transport, wearing their uniforms with a coat over the top.

“We also have many nurses working in the community and members of the public may see them out and about in their uniform,” she added.

Joanne added: “If staff are in close physical contact with a patient they will wear disposable personal protective equipment including an apron and, where a patient has infection or there is a risk from body fluids, they will also wear gloves.

“Standard procedure is for all staff to clean their hands before and after contact with each individual patient.”

The whole of Gorseinon Hospital, wards C and D at Neath Port Talbot Hospital, ward B (trauma and orthopaedic) at Morriston and now ward 12 at Singleton Hospital all have confirmed cases of norovirus and have been closed to new admissions.

As those who first became ill in our hospitals had been in-patients for some time, we know the virus was brought in from the community.

Even though we are still allowing visitors to come onto the wards which have been closed to new admissions, we are urging them to stay away if possible.

If you are visiting do not bring children with you and wash your hands regularly.

Do not interact with or offer food to other patients on the ward.

“Some people can also be carriers of norovirus but not have symptoms,” said Joanne.

“You may just have mild nausea and stomach pain, but you could still be carrying the virus and pass it on to others.

“Those who have weaker immune systems will be contagious for longer.

“Good hand hygiene is essential, especially after going to the loo, before and after eating and touching items that lots of other people will have touched such as shopping trolleys, door handles and TV remote controls.

“Always use soap and water. Hand sanitizers do not kill norovirus. They do work against lots of bacteria and viruses, including flu, but not norovirus.

“Do not share items like towels and flannels if you are unwell.”

Joanne added: “We are doing everything we can to halt the spread of the virus, but we cannot do this alone. The public’s help is essential.”

Our top hand washing tips:

  • ALWAYS use soap and water as this will remove the virus. The water doesn’t have to be warm
  • Froth and friction is the key! Rub your hands vigorously, making sure the soap spreads across the whole surface of your hands and works into a lather
  • Rinse off and pat dry gently
  • Moisturise your hands regularly as dry and cracked skin will harbour germs.

What is norovirus?

Norovirus causes vomiting and diarrhoea. It is a virus and antibiotics will not kill it.

Symptoms include nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting. You may also have a temperature (fever), a headache and aching arms and legs.

Symptoms usually start within one or two days of being infected. They can usually be managed at home and should disappear after a few days although you will remain contagious for up to 72 hours after your last symptoms.

You can catch it easily from other people, touching surfaces they have touched or eating food they have prepared.

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