Rise in norovirus outbreaks prompts NHS warning alert


Outbreaks of a vomiting and diarrhoea illness in North Somerset have risen by almost 50 per cent this winter compared with 12 months ago.

Medical experts are pleading with people struggling with norovirus to avoid coming into GP pratices and hospitals as the ‘unpleasant’ illness is highly contagious.

In recent weeks both Southmead Hospital in Bristol and Weston General Hospital have had to partially shut wards following detection of the illness, reducing the number of patients which can stay in overnight.

New NHS figures show in the latter stages of 2017 there were 33 outbreaks of norovirus in North Somerset, 10 more than over the same period in 2016. More than half have been at nursing homes, with schools also affected.

Regionally, the number of reported cases is up by 54 per cent.

The symptoms of norovirus include suddenly feeling sick, projectile vomiting, and diarrhoea. Some people also have a slight fever, headaches, stomach cramps and aching limbs. 

The symptoms typically last for up to three days

Dr Caroline Gamlin, a medical director for NHS England in the South West, is asking norovirus sufferers to be sensible.

She said: “We know there is real pressure on the NHS this winter, so if you have any vomiting, diarrhoea or respiratory symptoms please don’t visit relatives and friends in hospital or care homes. 

“The impact can be huge if you spread norovirus or flu – not just on vulnerable patients who are already unwell but on the availability of beds for other people. So please do your bit this winter to help keep others safe.”

She recommends norovirus sufferers get early advice from a pharmacist, or otherwise stay warm at home and call the non-emergency NHS 111 number.

Public Health England experts believe people mistakenly think alcohol hand gels are enough protection.

Its spokesman said: “The infection can live on hard surfaces for hours and spreads very quickly through environments where lots of people are mingling closely, such as schools and nurseries. 

“The best way to protect yourself and others from catching this unpleasant sickness bug is simply to wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap, and to keep the environment you live and work in clean.”