THE Public Health Agency (PHA) today called for people to be aware of the continuing presence of the winter vomiting virus within both the community and healthcare facilities. The PHA recommends simple, practical steps to minimise the risk of illness to others, especially older people and those with underlying conditions who may be more vulnerable.
Dr Gerry Waldron, Acting Assistant Director Health Protection, PHA, said: “Winter vomiting virus, also known as norovirus, is a frequent hazard to health that causes unpleasant and brief illness for many people. The most commonly reported symptoms are nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, which can begin suddenly.
“In some people, these are also accompanied by a raised temperature, headache and sore limbs. The illness can last as little as 12 hours or up to three days. The only treatment is to stay at home, rest, take plenty of fluids, and reduce contact with others, both in the home and at work. It is very important that people who have symptoms of illness do not visit hospitals or their GP surgery.”
Dr Waldron emphasised that winter vomiting virus is very infectious and can be easily spread in close-knit communities such as residential or nursing homes, schools, hospitals and workplaces.
“We are reminding people as we approach the winter months that this unpleasant virus is active, but there are steps we can all take to protect ourselves and others,” said Dr Waldron.
The risk of infection can be reduced by following these steps:
Always maintain good personal hygiene, in particular wash your hands after going to the toilet, and before preparing or eating food.
If you are vomiting or have diarrhoea, don’t visit friends or relatives in hospital or residential and nursing homes, and avoid visiting your GP’s surgery – it is much better to phone in for advice first.
Stay off school or work until at least 48 hours after any symptoms stop.
Dr Waldron continued: “The reality for most people is that this is a short-term, unpleasant illness, with most of us getting better within a few days. However, we can all play a part in keeping it at bay and protecting more vulnerable people, to whom it can present a more serious risk. The PHA greatly values everyone’s help in following this advice.”
For further information for patients and visitors to healthcare facilities on norovirus (‘winter vomiting bug’) and how to prevent the spread of infection see http://www.publichealth.hscni.net/publications/norovirus.