Norovirus – which lays people low with unpleasant symptoms such as sickness, diarrhoea, stomach cramps, a temperature, headache and aching limbs – is highly contagious and while there is no specific treatment, most people make a full recovery within 2 to 3 days. Some people, usually the very young or elderly, may become dehydrated and require hospital treatment.
It can cause problems in hospitals and care homes if brought in by visitors. Once on the wards, the bug can lead to cancelled operations, delay recovery and prevent other people from being admitted. Anyone who has, or is recovering from norovirus, should avoid visiting hospitals, GP surgeries, care homes, the workplace, schools, and pharmacies, if they are able to manage the symptoms themselves.
Lisa Johnson, nurse consultant director of infection prevention and control at NHS Kernow said: “There is 1 ward closed at the Royal Cornwall Hospital, Treliske, and 4 members of staff are not in work as a result of picking up the nasty bug.
“Norovirus can survive on surfaces for weeks, even months. When someone vomits that will release many millions of particles of the virus but only 20 are needed to cause an infection, so it’s really easy to catch and it’s really easy to contaminate an environment. This makes it really easy to spread.
“There are lots of different types of noroviruses so if you have had it once there is no guarantee that you won’t get it again, and you can quite easily catch it again in a couple of months.
“The virus enters your body through the mouth, and washing your hands with soap and hot water after using the loo, and before you eat food are the 2 most important things you can do to prevent catching it. Alcohol gel does not kill this virus.
“If you do catch it, or someone in your household has got it, please stay away from others; use separate towels and a separate loo if you have got one, and don’t cook for others if you can avoid it. You might feel dreadful but don’t go out in public until you are free of symptoms for at least two days. Stay in your home, keep warm, drink plenty of fluids, and take paracetamol for the aches and pains. Phone your GP or NHS 111 if your symptoms worsen, or have not improved within a couple of days.
“If someone is sick, clean the mess carefully, including the toilet, flush and door handles, and taps, to reduce the risk of spreading the virus to others.”
You should still go to the emergency department if you need emergency medical attention such as suspected stroke, heart attack, if you are unconscious, or have a significant amount of blood loss, but please tell staff if you have diarrhoea or sickness symptoms when you arrive.