NHS Borders this week issued a public appeal in a bid to avoid the havoc wreaked last year by the norovirus, the so-called winter vomiting bug, writes Andrew Keddie.
An outbreak led to the closure of two wards to new admissions at Borders General Hospital between Christmas and New Year.
Symptoms of a norovirus infection include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and, in some cases, fever, headache, stomach cramps and aching limbs. Symptoms can last between 12 and 60 hours, with most sufferers recovering within two days.
The norovirus group of viruses flourishes in contained environments, such as hospitals, nursing homes and schools, and spreads easily from person to person and after contact with contaminated surfaces, food or water.
Given the short-term nature of the symptoms for which there is no specific treatment, sufferers usually do not need to see a doctor. People with long-term medical conditions, however, may develop more serious symptoms and are advised to contact their GP or NHS 24 (08454 24 24 24) if they are worried.
“When the norovirus is spreading through the community, it is inevitable patients will be admitted to hospital,” said an NHS Borders spokeswoman who announced a range of visitor restrictions at the BGH. “When this happens, it can spread very quickly to other patients.
“Although measures to reduce the spread have been put in place, visitors should not go to the BGH or any other healthcare facility in the Borders if they or other members of their family has has symptoms of diarrhoea or vomiting within the previous 48 hours.
“Children should not be brought to the hospital to visit patients and if adult visitors must visit, a limit of two visitors per patient will be imposed.
“Visitors should not move around the hospital, but only go to the area they need to visit, while everyone entering a ward should use the hand-cleaning spray dispensers available.
“Borderers should also consider postponing visiting family or relatives during the outbreak.”
Those catching the bug should drink plenty of non-alcoholic, non-milky drinks to replace lost fluids and make sure hands are clean to prevent the illness spreading. Sufferers must not prepare food for others, but should try to eat as much as they can, especially soups and foods high in carbohydrates, such as pasta, rice or potatoes.
The hospital restrictions were welcomed by South of Scotland MSP Christine Grahame, convener of the Scottish Parliament’s health committee.