The NHS is calling on the public to heed advice and stay at home if they have norovirus to avoid passing it on, as hospitals in England have recently been forced to close more than 1,100 beds.

Top medics are concerned about the spread of the winter vomiting bug this year and the impact it is having on hospitals and other services. They are therefore urging those who catch the virus not to go back to work or school until at least 48 hours after symptoms pass, to avoid passing it on to others.

Jane Dickson, chief nurse at Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “We know cases of norovirus have been at higher levels than expected in other areas of the country, so we are keen to do all we can to prevent the spread of the virus locally. If you experience symptoms, you can help by not returning to work or school until at least 48 hours after they pass. We also ask you not to come to hospital if you are experiencing symptoms – if you are concerned you should contact NHS 111 or talk to your GP by phone first.”

Glynis Bennett, Nurse Consultant and Deputy Director of Infection Prevention and Control at Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals, said: “As a Trust we are alert for cases of norovirus and assess all patients with any norovirus like symptoms.

“If staff show norovirus symptoms we advise them to not come into the hospital for 48 hours after symptoms have stopped. We have published information on our website, advising the public to refrain from visiting the hospital if they experience norovirus symptoms and explain that visiting may need to be restricted to prevent spread of infection. Strict handwashing with warm water and soap is encouraged for staff, patients and visitors.”

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS medical director, said: “It’s a really unpleasant illness to catch but for the vast majority of people it will usually pass in a couple of days; and self-treating at home is the best way to help yourself and avoid putting others at risk.”

The symptoms appear one to two days after people become infected and typically last for up to two or three days. The main symptoms of norovirus are typically:

  • suddenly feeling sick
  • projectile vomiting
  • watery diarrhoea

 

Those who are experiencing severe symptoms or are worried about their children can also seek guidance on what to do on the NHS.uk website, or by using the free NHS 111 phone or online service.