Soap and water still the best protection against winter sickness bug

Somerset’s Public Health advisors and family doctors are reminding people that simple hand washing with soap is still an effective way to reduce your risk of getting the winter sickness called Norovirus.

With the onset of winter and more people spending time indoors and in close proximity to each other, the virus has the ideal opportunity to quickly spread from person-to-person.  All it takes is someone with the highly infectious illness to fail to wash their hands after going to the toilet or to vomit in a confined space with other people and all risk being infected.

The symptoms of gastric illness that follow are seldom life-threatening, but the ease with which it spreads can causes major disruption to schools, care homes, hospitals and even hotels and cruise liners.

Trudi Grant, Somerset’s Director of Public Health said: “Outbreaks of Norovirus infection is common. However, the impact on individuals and places like schools, care homes and hospitals can be limited if we all take some basic measures 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. It is particularly important not to visit places like care homes or hospitals if experiencing symptoms of the virus.”

Dr Ed Ford, a Minehead GP and Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group’s Chairman, said:

“People infected by Norovirus typically experience a sudden onset of nausea followed by projectile vomiting and watery diarrhoea. Some people also experience headaches, mild temperatures and stomach cramps. Symptoms can last 24 to 48 hours.  There is no treatment for the virus but it is important to keep drink water to combat the loss of fluids. Most people will recover within a few days and there are no long-term effects.

“If you are concerned about symptoms of gastric illness and need health advice please telephone NHS 111 first.”

Top tips to protect yourself and others:

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 www.nhs.uk/staywell