South Yorkshire health chiefs issue norovirus warning

Intake Primary School
Intake Primary School
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Health chiefs are urging people to take precautions to avoid spreading norovirus, with an increase of outbreaks reported across the region.

Public Health England said 'a significant number of outbreaks' have been reported in care homes, with outbreaks in schools and hospitals also increasing.

The organisation said GPs have also reported an increase in the number of patients with vomiting and diarrhoea symptoms.

At the beginning of the month, a sickness bug swept through Intake Primary School, with 172 pupils and four members of staff ill on the worst day.

An industrial deep clean of the school, which has 407 pupils, was carried out in a bid to prevent the spread of the bug.

Public Health England said norovirus is the most common cause of infectious viral gastroenteritis in England and Wales over winter months.

Dr Mike Gent, Deputy Director for Health Protection in Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen an increase in the number of outbreaks of suspected viral gastroenteritis being reported across Yorkshire and the Humber.

"As we would expect at this time of the year, we’re seeing a significant number of outbreaks in care homes and outbreaks in schools and hospitals are increasing as well. GPs are also reporting an increase in the numbers of consultations for vomiting and diarrhoea symptoms.

“This isn’t unusual in the winter months and Public Health England nationally is reporting an increase in the number of cases of norovirus confirmed in laboratory testing of gastroenteritis cases. It’s important that we’re all aware that norovirus and other similar infections are increasing in the community at the moment so we can all do what we can to stop the spread of infection.”

The symptoms of norovirus are vomiting, which is often sudden and projectile, diarrhoea and sometimes both.

Some people may have a raised temperature, headaches and aching limbs.

“The virus is highly infectious and easily transmitted from one person to another,” Dr Gent said.

“It spreads very easily because, when someone is ill, the virus can be spread in aerosol form and contaminate a wide area of surfaces around them.

"Other people then touch those surfaces, come into contact with the virus and become ill themselves. As a result, norovirus tends to spread rapidly, especially in semi-closed environments where large numbers of people congregate close together, like care homes, schools, hospitals and hotels.

“Although it’s unpleasant, norovirus infection is generally a mild illness and there is no specific treatment, apart from letting the illness run its course. In the vast majority of cases, there is no additional benefit to visiting a GP or A&E department but by doing so, you can risk spreading the infection further in places where there are likely to be people who are more vulnerable to illness.”

ADVICE TO AVOID SPREADING NOROVIRUS:

- Wash and dry your hands often and thoroughly, with soap and warm water. Don’t rely on alcohol hand gels alone.

- Stay away from places of work and keep children away from school until at least 48 hours after the symptoms have stopped.

" Don’t visit vulnerable family or friends, especially people in hospitals or care homes, to reduce the risk of passing the virus on.

- Be careful when clearing up after someone who has been ill - wash your hands frequently.

- Disinfect any surfaces or objects that could be contaminated.

- Wash any items of clothing, bedding, or towels that could have been contaminated, on a separate hot wash, to ensure the virus is killed.