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Norovirus and flu outbreaks prompt warning to stay away from Addenbrooke's and The Rosie hospitals

By Paul Brackley

Norovirus and flu are highly contagious viruses
Norovirus and flu are highly contagious viruses

Guide on all you need to know about winter vomiting virus as Cambridge University Hospitals restricts visiting

Addenbrookes and The Rosie hospitals are urging patients to stay away if possible. Picture: Keith Heppell
Addenbrookes and The Rosie hospitals are urging patients to stay away if possible. Picture: Keith Heppell

Addenbrooke’s and the Rosie hospitals are urging the public to stay away due to a rise in the number of cases of norovirus and flu there.

Cambridge University Hospitals confirmed today (Wednesday) that visiting hours are now being restricted to 3-5pm and 6.30-8pm but sent a clear message to the public: If it’s not absolutely necessary for you to come to hospital please stay away.

Children are being told not to visit Addenbrooke’s or The Rosie unless it is on compassionate grounds and if it has been agreed in advance by the ward manager.

Four wards on the site are affected by norovirus and two by flu.

The symptoms of norovirus
The symptoms of norovirus

The hospital trust said measures are being taken to stop the spread of the highly contagious viruses.

Anyone with symptoms of norovirus - which are diarrhoea and vomiting - should not visit the site, including the food areas, until they have been free from symptoms for 48 hours.

The hospitals advised those who are unwell and requiring medical advice to contact NHS 111 and only attend the hospital if advised or in an emergency.

Dr Ashley Shaw, medical director at Cambridge University Hospitals, said: “The hospital has a clear escalation plan for infection control and we go out to the public when we need their help to control the spread of infection.

Flu has hit two wards at Addenbrookes
Flu has hit two wards at Addenbrookes

“Having an increased number of patients with norovirus and flu presents huge challenges around isolating infectious patients in a hospital that is already very busy.

“The public can play their part in helping us manage these outbreaks by staying away unless it is absolutely necessary to come to hospital.”

Cambridge University Hospitals provided the following useful advice and information about the winter vomiting virus:

Visitor hours have been restricted at the hospitals
Visitor hours have been restricted at the hospitals

About norovirus

What causes ‘winter vomiting’?

‘Winter vomiting’ is a term used for a type of diarrhoea and/or vomiting that spreads like a cold or flu (‘gastric flu’) and is more common in the colder, winter months. It is caused by an infection: a virus called norovirus. Outbreaks occur throughout the UK, and are common in hospitals and schools where there are large groups of people gathered together.

Why is winter vomiting a problem?

Winter vomiting is quite infectious and can spread quite quickly through any close contact. In hospitals, large numbers of patients, visitors and staff can be affected. This can disturb the normal working of the hospital and cause distress to those infected and their friends and families.

How can hospitals help to prevent winter vomiting?

When there are high levels of this infection in the community, it is very difficult to prevent patients, staff and visitors bringing the infection into hospital.

When we have one or more patients on a ward with a suspected infection, we are careful to identify it early and take steps to prevent its spread.

It is important at all times that ward areas are kept hygienic. When there are patients with winter vomiting on our wards, we are even more careful to clean the ward areas, especially the toilets. This will help remove the virus from the environment.

Hospital staff will try to prevent infection from spreading by:

• wearing gloves and aprons while they are caring for you and when dealing with

• your body fluids.

• being careful to wash their hands effectively after contact with infected patients and their surroundings.

How will I know I have winter vomiting?

People who have winter vomiting will suffer from sickness and diarrhoea for about two to three days. They might also have a raised temperature, headaches and aching limbs. Although it can be unpleasant for the person affected, the illness is usually mild and will get better on its own without any antibiotics.

If I have winter vomiting, how will this affect my care in hospital?

If you become unwell on the ward, we will continue to provide good care for you but we will also try to prevent other patients, visitors and staff from becoming infected. We might need to delay some planned investigations or operations until you are feeling better. Until you recover, you might be moved to a side room or an area in

which other patients have the same illness.

What treatment will I have for the winter vomiting?

If we suspect you have winter vomiting, you won’t need to have antibiotics to treat it - it should get better on its own. If we suspect it might be something else or want to be extra sure, we might test a sample of your stool (‘poo’) to make sure you don’t have any other problems. The most important thing we can do for you while you have

symptoms is to make sure you have plenty of fluids. Once your illness is over, no further action is necessary and your treatment will continue as before.

Can I still have visitors?

If a ward or bay is closed with winter vomiting visiting is not permitted.

In exceptional circumstances immediate family or significant others may be permitted to visit at the discretion of the senior nurse. Any such proposed visits should first be discussed with the senior nurse.

If you visit in these circumstances you should wear aprons and gloves and wash your hands on entry and exit from the ward.

If there are isolated cases in a ward but it is not closed, visitors should be kept to a minimum and they might want to think about delaying their visit. This is especially important if they are children or frail or elderly. If you have any concerns about visiting, please discuss these with your nurse or the doctor.

Are there any extra precautions for visitors to take?

We want to keep our ward areas hygienic and free from infection. We ask everyone entering and exiting ward areas to wash their hands frequently and use the alcohol hand rub before and after seeing patients.

However, in the case of ‘winter vomiting’ the alcohol hand rub is ineffective at removing the virus from the hands. Instead we advise everyone to wash their hands in running water at the sinks with the liquid soap products provided. Those visitors who do come to see you should be extra careful not to carry infection in or out of the ward area by washing their hands at the sink before they enter and leave. If your visitors need to do anything else, the ward staff will let you and them know.

If I have had winter vomiting recently, can I come into hospital?

We always ask people who have an infection to ‘leave it at home’ by delaying coming into hospital until they are better. Anyone, including visitors, who is unwell or suffering from diarrhoea and vomiting should not visit the hospital (including the food areas) until they have been free from symptoms for 48 hours.


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