Hospital staff are appealing to families and friends wanting to visit patients in local hospitals to ‘visit responsibly’ to help reduce the spread of influenza (flu) and norovirus (sickness and diarrhoea).
Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Torbay Hospital and nine community hospitals in the area, has restrictions in place on a very small number of wards due to either flu or norovirus.
Flu and norovirus are common viruses which circulate in the community and, although usually more prevalent in the winter, can occur at any time. Most people will recover from flu or norovirus within a few days, but will remain contagious for some time after the symptoms have disappeared. For hospital patients, who can often be more vulnerable due to existing illness or injury, the viruses can have a more serious impact on their health.
Dr Selina Hoque, Director of Infection Prevention and Control at Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, said: “There is currently an increase in flu and norovirus circulating in our community. We know that people place great value on being able to visit loved ones in hospital, but when we are experiencing infection outbreaks in the community they can unknowingly put our patients’ health at risk.
“Flu or norovirus rarely require medical treatment but for those who are already ill it can be more serious. It is vitally important we protect our patients and we have well established systems in place to do this. However, we really need visitors and members of the public to assist us by visiting responsibly.
“If you are feeling unwell, or actually have flu-like symptoms, diarrhoea or vomiting, please don’t come into the hospital as a visitor for at least 48 hours after the last symptom has disappeared. If you become unwell whilst you are visiting then please tell someone in charge, even if you were ill in a toilet. Also, if you are due to attend for an operation or for an outpatient appointment and have been ill then please ring the hospital and let them know.”
The most effective way to avoid the infection is through good hand washing, using soap and warm water rather than special hand-gels, particularly after using the toilet and before eating and drinking anything. This is especially important if others in the house are unwell.
For most cases of Flu or norovirus the best thing to do is rest and make sure you are getting plenty of fluids. If you are worried about being ill, particularly if you feel that you are becoming dehydrated, please call your GP surgery or dial 111 for advice. NHS 111 is a fast and easy way to get the right help, whatever the time — it’s available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Alternatively, for online healthcare advice, visit www.nhs.uk.
Torbay Hospital’s switchboard can be contacted on 0300 456 8000 (local rate) or 01803 614567.