Please don’t take norovirus into hospitals or care homes

Mon 15th December 2014

Health organisations in the North East are urging people suffering from vomiting or diarrhoea not to visit people in hospitals and care homes to limit the spread of norovirus.

Figures released by Public Health England show there were six hospital outbreaks in the North East in the last two weeks of November, all resulting in bed closures.

Dr Deb Wilson, a consultant in health protection at PHE’s North East PHE Centre, said: ‘Norovirus – also known as the winter vomiting bug – is highly infectious and can spread rapidly in communities such as hospitals, care homes, sheltered housing accommodation and schools. ‘That’s why it is so important not to visit family and friends – as well as staying away from your workplace  – until you have been free of symptoms for 48 hours.

Of course, if you are very ill you should seek medical help.‘Noroviruses cause a very unpleasant but generally short-lived illness from which healthy people usually recover without treatment. But it can cause more serious illness in the very young, elderly people and those with chronic illnesses.’

Drs Mike Prentice and James Gossow, medical directors for NHS England’s Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear area team and Durham, Darlington and Tees area team respectively, also urged people affected not to visit.

They said: ‘Hospitals are often under pressure around winter, and this can be made worse if bugs like norovirus enter wards. These bugs can pass quickly between visitors, patients and staff, which can result in staff being off ill, beds becoming unavailable and appointments being postponed.

‘There are some really basic steps you can take to help us to keep services running as normal, such as not visiting hospital if you’ve been sick or had diarrhoea in the last 48 hours.

‘We also advise children aged 12 years or younger not to visit hospital, as they often pick these bugs up at school. If you’re visiting someone in hospital, remember that no more than two visitors are allowed in at any one time and to use the seats provided at bedside.’

PHE’s advice for people who think they may have norovirus or winter vomiting is:

  • Norovirus infection is a self-limiting illness and you will usually recover naturally without treatment. It is, however, important to take plenty of drinks to replace lost fluids.
  • Visit the NHS Choices website at for advice on how to manage your symptoms at home or help to access the most appropriate health service.
  • If symptoms persist, ask for a telephone consultation with your family doctor. Try to avoid visiting your GP surgery or local A&E Unit as you may pass the infection on to others.
  • Wash hands thoroughly and regularly at all times, but particularly after using the toilet and before eating.
  • Do not visit friends or relatives in hospitals or residential care homes until you have fully recovered and have been free of symptoms for at least 48 hours as there is a real risk that you would introduce the infection into these communities putting vulnerable people at risk.
  • Stay away from work or school until you have fully recovered and been free of symptoms for 48 hours.
  • Do not handle or prepare food for other people until you have been free of symptoms for at least 48 hours.