Agency calls for vigilance over vomiting virus

Tuesday, 9 February 2010 – Health Protection

The Public Health Agency (PHA) today called for people to be aware of an increase in levels of the winter vomiting virus. The Agency 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. The PHA made this call in the wake of a rise in cases of the illness being reported to GPs and among patients in local hospitals.

Dr Lorraine Doherty, Assistant Director of 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 with 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 to reduce contact with others both in the home and at work. It is very important for people who have symptoms of illness not to visit hospitals or their GP surgery.”

Dr Doherty 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 that this unpleasant bug is once again with us and of the steps we can all take to protect ourselves and others,” said Dr Doherty. The risk of infection can be reduced by:
• Always maintaining good personal hygiene, especially washing your hands after visits to the toilet and before meals.
• Avoiding visits to friends or relatives in hospital or residential and nursing homes.
• Avoiding visiting your GP’s surgery – it is much better to phone in for advice first.
• Staying off school or work until at least 48 hours after any symptoms of sickness.

Dr Doherty 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 those more vulnerable people to whom it can present a more serious risk. The PHA greatly values the help of the community in following this advice.”

 

Further information

Contact PHA Press Office, Ormeau Avenue Unit, on 028 9031 1611.