Norovirus surge closes more than 1,100 hospital beds

Experts say it is important those with the bug stay at home until 48 hours after symptoms have cleared.

James McKay
10 December 2019
Hospital ward

Data shows higher than average levels of norovirus across health and social care services.

Hospitals in England last week closed more than 1,100 hospital beds because of a surge in the highly infectious ‘winter vomiting bug’ norovirus.

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Data shows higher than average levels of norovirus were seen across health and social care services in November.

Hospital bed are closed as clinical areas require a thorough clean following an outbreak of the highly infectious bug.

The main symptoms of norovirus are nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea with symptoms appearing one to two days after infection and lasting for up to three days.

Experts are asking those with the bug to stay at home until 48 hours after symptoms have cleared.

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A big challenge to nursing staff this winter.

Helen Donovan, The Royal College of Nursing’s Professional Lead for Public Health Nursing, said: “with so many beds being lost to the illness already this winter, bed stocks are reaching unsustainably low levels.

“Friends and family should not visit people in hospital if they know they are infected themselves.

“Also, everyone should wash their hands with soap and water wherever possible as this is a more effective protection against norovirus than relying on hand sanitisers alone.

“Nursing staff also often fall victim to norovirus outbreaks – which then exacerbates existing staffing problems, as affected staff shouldn’t report for duty until they’ve been symptom-free for 48 hours.

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“If they return to work too early, staff risk unknowingly passing on the illness, as they remain infectious. Norovirus presents a big challenge to nursing staff in winter, who are already working in a challenging environment with one in ten posts vacant.”

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