Rise in local norovirus cases prompts health experts to call for public support

wash hands

An increase in the number of norovirus cases across Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire is adding extra pressure to an already-busy local health and care system.

Hospitals and care homes across the region, as well as many other local health and care settings, have reported the bug spreading among staff and patients.

Cases of norovirus, which passes very easily from person to person, and causes symptoms such as sickness, diarrhoea and dehydration, have been rising across the country, with data suggesting the current number is more than twice as high as it was this time last year

Connie Timmins, Lead Nurse for Infection Prevention and Control, Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire Integrated Care Board, said: “The best way to stop the spread of norovirus is to stay at home and away from others until at least 48 hours after symptoms have passed.

“Even if a person is no longer being sick or running to the loo, the virus may still be present in their system, which means it can still be passed on.

“Staying at home, as well as avoiding health and care settings, including hospitals, GP practices, pharmacies and care homes, will protect others, especially those who are vulnerable, from falling ill.”

Washing hands regularly with soap and water can kill any lingering norovirus germs, as can disinfecting toilets, kitchen surfaces and door handles.

Antibacterial hand sanitiser should only be used as a supplement to soap and water, as the gel on its own is ineffective against the virus.

People experiencing norovirus are advised to rest, drink plenty of fluids and follow the guidance on how to get better listed on the NHS website, as most people will recover in a couple of days.

Those with prolonged or worsening symptoms should not seek help in-person, but instead use the NHS 111 online tool, which can suggest help and advice specific to a person’s current condition.

Visiting hospitals and other health and care settings while feeling poorly with norovirus can add significant pressure to hard-working front-line teams.

Sarah Merritt, Deputy Chief Nurse, Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Across the NHS, levels of winter viruses remain high for this time of year.

“At the RUH, we are seeing a much higher than usual rate of norovirus infection, and this is having a significant impact on our bed availability as we manage our clinical areas to reduce the spread of infection and keep the people we care for safe.

“Our community can support us by not coming to the hospital if they are experiencing symptoms of norovirus and waiting 48 hours after symptoms have cleared before attending hospital.”

More information about local health and care services, including details of how to use NHS 111, can be found at www.bsw.icb.nhs.uk.