Virus alert as hospitals limit visits

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HOSPITAL chiefs in Sheffield have asked visitors to consider staying away because of an outbreak of the Norovirus vomiting bug.

Norovirus, also known as the winter vomiting bug, is an extremely contagious infection causing diarrhoea, vomiting and fever.

New patients have been turned away from certain wards and patients have complained that operations have been cancelled as bosses try to contain the outbreak.

Chris Morley, deputy chief nurse at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said there had been an increase in incidents of Norovirus over the last fortnight.

He said: “On certain days we were unable to admit new patients to up to 11 wards as a precautionary measure to prevent more patients from contracting the virus.

“We know the Norovirus is prevalent in the community at the moment and this is why we are asking visitors to support our efforts by not visiting hospitals if they have had symptoms of diarrhoea or vomiting in the last 72 hours.”

Dr Christine Bates, director of infection control added: “We understand that sometimes visitors feel they must take every opportunity to visit sick friends or relatives. However, if they themselves have been unwell they could be putting others at risk.”

One elderly patient arrived at the Royal Hallamshire for a replacement knee operation only to be turned away. He said: “I was told my operation had been cancelled because of the Norovirus. I think they could have let me know before I set off.”

Norovirus spreads through personal contact, food and water and is likely to spread where people are in close proximity, such as in hospitals or schools. Severe outbreaks can cause serious disruptions to hospitals - in December three wards were closed at Barnsley Hospital because of the bug.

NHS bosses have issued strict hygiene guidelines to stop the spread of the bug on hospital premises.

There is no treatment for Norovirus apart from letting it run its course. The infection usually lasts between 12 and 60 hours.