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Don’t go to A&E if you’ve got winter bug, doctors urge

PUBLISHED: 19:24 29 December 2008 | UPDATED: 13:55 05 October 2010

ANYONE with winter vomiting’ is being urged against going to their GP or hospital Accident and Emergency department because of the danger of spreading the bug. An outbreak could lead to temporary hospital ward closures, the Barts and The Royal London NHS Trust warns

By Mike Brooke

ANYONE with winter vomiting’ is being urged against going to their GP or hospital Accident and Emergency department because of the danger of spreading the bug.

An outbreak could lead to temporary hospital ward closures, the Barts and The Royal London NHS Trust warns.

The common winter ailment norovirus’ is highly contagious and the most frequent cause of infectious gastroenteritis.

A few cases of norovirus have already been reported at the Royal London in Whitechapel.

But people thinking of coming into the hospital who have symptoms of vomiting or diarrhoea are being urged to stay at home and treat themselves.

“We are sending out this message in East London as a precaution,” explained the trust’s medical director Charles Gutteridge.

“Most cases can be safely treated at home with rest and fluids, to reduce the chance of spreading the bug through the population.”

Symptoms of norovirus usually last from 12 to 60 hours, often starting with the sudden onset of nausea followed by projectile vomiting and diarrhoea. But most people recover very quickly.

Tower Hamlets Public Health director Dr Ian Basnett said: “Norovirus thrives in semi-closed environments where large numbers of people congregate.

“So schools, nursing homes, hospitals and GP surgeries can be most affected.”

He added: “People affected need to visit their GP or hospital only if absolutely necessary, if symptoms persist and don’t go away.”

A&E departments are already dealing with an increase in cases of norovirus in London this year, the NHS revealed. But winter vomiting is generally a mild and short-lived illness, where most people usually recover within two to three days.

There is no specific treatment for the illness. Those affected by winter vomiting are being advised to “rest at home and drink plenty of fluids.”

Dr Brian McCloskey, the Health Protection Agency’s London regional director, said: “They should not visit the GP surgery or hospital A&E unless diarrhoea and vomiting are very severe.”

Advice to help contain and limit the spread of winter vomiting includes washing hands thoroughly and regularly, particularly after the toilet and before eating.

Those with the symptoms are being advised not to handle or prepare food for others for at least 48 hours after recovering—and stay off work or school for at least two days.

But above all, the NHS is urging anyone with suspected norovirus not to visit friends or relatives hospitals or care homes, or go to GP surgeries or hospital A&E, as it risks introducing the infection into the population.

The NHS runs a 24-hour health advice service on 020-0845 4647.


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