NORTH-EAST hospitals have had to close patient areas after being struck with a highly-infectious winter vomiting virus.
The Health Protection Agency has issued a warning to people with vomiting or diarrhoea to stay away from work, school and hospitals for 48 hours until their symptoms have gone.
The guidance comes as Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary, General and Freeman hospitals, plus South Tyneside General, have closed patient bays to isolate those hit by the virus as it takes hold.
Most bouts of winter vomiting are caused by norovirus infection, which is the most frequent cause of infectious gastroenteritis and affects approximately a million people in the UK every year.
Shelia Morgan, a nurse consultant for infection prevention and control for the Newcastle hospitals trust, said there has been a recent rise in winter vomiting in patients.
She said: “We haven’t closed wards this time but we have closed areas to manage patients.
“Winter has hit us very hard and we are into the time of year where it is more prolific in the community than any other time. It is a seasonal variation and the numbers are rising.
“We ask people not to visit patients until they are symptom-free.”
She said there was no alert system in place for outbreaks of winter vomiting at the hospitals but patients with symptoms were managed and given priority for isolation.
Dave Shilton, director of nursing at South Tyneside Hospitals Foundation Trusts said patient bays had been closed to prevent the virus from spreading.
He said: “We have seen a recent rise in patients with winter vomiting which is normal for this time of year. We have closed a couple of bays.”
Spokeswomen for Northumbria and Gateshead NHS Foundation Trust said they had not had any cases so far.
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PEOPLE with vomiting or diarrhoea are urged not to visit relatives in hospital and to stay away from work or school until they have been free of symptoms for 48 hours.
Noroviruses cause a very unpleasant but generally short-lived illness from which people will usually recover without treatment.
The main symptom is vomiting, which can come on very suddenly, and is sometimes accompanied by diarrhoea.
Some people may have a raised temperature, headaches and aching limbs.
The best way to control infection is effective hand-washing, while areas that have been contaminated by vomit should be thoroughly cleaned with disinfectant.