HEALTH bosses are urging people who have had symptoms of norovirus – diarrhoea and vomiting – in at least the past 48 hours to stay away from Devon hospitals.
The Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital has experienced an increase in patients admitted with diarrhoea and vomiting caused by the norovirus, while district hospitals in Tiverton and Crediton had on Friday managed to stay clear of the bug, with all wards remaining open.
Norovirus spreads from person to person extremely easily and causes outbreaks in hospitals which result in wards being closed.
To protect patients and visitors the RD&E hospital is temporarily restricting the number of people who visit patients.
On all of its wards – with the exceptions of ITU, the Bramble Unit, the Maternity and Neonatal Unit where the usual visiting arrangements remain in place – patients may receive only one visitor for 30 minutes twice a day from 2.30pm to 3pm and 6pm to 6.30pm.
Hospital bosses have asked patients to help them achieve this by agreeing with their relatives and friends who will visit them.
In exceptional circumstances, visiting outside these hours can be arranged with the nurse in charge of the ward, and people are asked to ring the ward in advance to arrange it.
It is extremely important that people do not visit any of the wards until they have been free of diarrhoea and vomiting symptoms for at least 48 hours, as they will still be infectious and will infect the person they visit.
Dr Virginia Pearson, director of public health for the NHS in Devon, said: "We need to protect our patients.
"Our hospitals are looking after people who are unwell and may have reduced immunity. They are therefore more likely to catch norovirus.
"If anyone has been feeling unwell recently, particularly experiencing any symptoms of diarrhoea, sickness of nausea and if they are are recovering from a bout of sickness, please could they stay away from hospitals or nursing homes until they have been free of any of these symptoms for at least 48 hours. People should also stay away from work or school until they have recovered.
"Similarly, if anyone has have been in contact with someone who has symptoms of norovirus, whether in the family, at school or work – they could also be bringing the virus into one of our hospitals, so could they please stay away until it is clear that they have not picked up the virus."
If the illness persists for more than a few days, people should contact their family doctor by phone or take advice from NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 or www.nhs.uk.