The Health Protection Agency North West is advising people with norovirus infection (winter vomiting) not to attend GP surgeries or hospital Accident and Emergency Units to avoid the risk of infection being passed on to vulnerable patients.
The Agency is also urging people with the winter vomiting bug not to visit friends or relatives in hospitals and residential care homes and to stay away from work or school until they have fully recovered and been free of symptoms for 48 hours.
“Norovirus is the most common cause of gastro-intestinal infection in the UK with up to one million cases recorded every year," explained Professor Qutub Syed, Director, HPA North West. "It's particularly common in the winter months and we are currently picking up reports of cases throughout the region.
“Norovirus infection is an unpleasant but short-lived illness from which the majority of people, even the frail elderly, will recover in 12 to 60 hours without treatment other than rest and taking drinks to replace lost fluids.
"However, it is a highly infectious illness that spreads rapidly when introduced to close-knit communities such as hospitals, residential care homes, cruise ships, schools and work places."
“If swine flu continues to spread and we start to see outbreaks of normal seasonal flu as winter draws in, NHS services could come under severe pressure from time to time. That is why it is more important than ever for people with winter vomiting not to visit GP surgeries or hospital Accident and Emergency departments.
“People with symptoms should stay at home, ensure that they pay particular attention to hand-washing and avoid contact with others. If symptoms persist the patient should ring NHS Direct for advice or arrange a telephone consultation with the family doctor.”
• The NHS Direct number is 0845 4647