Protect yourself and others from the winter sickness bug

Ahead of the ‘winter vomiting season’ Somerset’s Director of Public Health is reminding people to stay at home if they have the symptoms of the Norovirus infection.

The symptoms of Norovirus are very distinctive and people often report a sudden onset of nausea followed by projectile vomiting and watery diarrhoea, some people also experience headaches, mild temperatures and stomach cramps. Such symptoms are not normally life threatening and last no longer than 24 to 48 hours.

There is no treatment for the virus but it is important to keep hydrated to combat the loss of fluids. Most people will recover within a few days and there are no long-term effects.

The illness is highly infectious and great care needs to be taken to prevent its spread. When introduced to hospitals, residential care homes and other establishments where people live or work together in close proximity it can have major consequences such as the closure of hospital wards to new admissions, staff going off work sick and appointments being cancelled.

Trudi Grant, Somerset’s Director of Public Health said: “Outbreaks of Norovirus infection are common as winter approaches. However, the impact on individuals and care settings can be limited to some extent by taking some simple actions to help stop the virus spreading.

“Simple things like washing your hands properly, being very careful with the handling of food and avoiding contact with other people who show symptoms will all help avoid getting infected.

“Although most people will usually get better in a day or so, people who are physically frail can be affected far more severely. Extra care should be taken to prevent babies and small children who have diarrhoea and vomiting from dehydrating by giving them plenty of fluids.”

Cllr. Anna Groskop, Cabinet Member with responsibility for health and wellbeing, said: “We all need to help our local hospitals and care homes, particularly at this time of year. So please help yourself, your family and local community by following the advice to stop the spread of infection this winter.”

Dr Ed Ford, a Minehead GP and Chairman of Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Norovirus causes unpleasant symptoms of sickness and diarrhoea and we see cases all year round. The symptoms only last a few days but the virus is easily spread from person to person, so good personal hygiene is essential. If you are concerned and need health advice telephone the 111 NHS health helpline.”

Top tips to protect:
• Stay away from work, school or college until you have been free of symptoms for at least 48 hours
• Do not handle or prepare food for other people until you have been symptom free for a minimum period of 48 hours
• Do not visit friends or relatives in hospitals or residential care homes to avoid introducing the infection to environments where it could spread easily and put vulnerable people at greater risk
• Do not attend social gatherings until you have been free of all symptoms for at least 48 hours
• Do not visit your GP surgery or local A&E Unit. You will recover naturally without treatment, but it is important to rest and keep yourself hydrated
• Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly at all times, but particularly after toilet visits and before eating
• Do not share towels with others. If possible, use paper towels after hand-washing and dispose of them immediately
• Make sure that any surface that is contaminated by vomit or faeces is promptly and thoroughly disinfected after an episode of illness
• If your symptoms persist or appear to be worsening, phone your family doctor or NHS 111 for advice
• If you have bloody diarrhoea (blood in your stools), phone your doctor or NHS 111 urgently for advice.

Full information is available at http://www.nhs.uk/staywell

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For further information, please contact the Press Office on 01823 355020 or email pressoffice@somerset.gov.uk

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