Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) have issued advice as Norovirus is circulating in the Bangor area. BCUHB are hoping to protect hospital patients from Norovirus (diarrhoea and vomiting) and have put together advice for anyone who has felt unwell with Norovirus – including guidance on when it’s safe to visit a hospital.
What is Norovirus?
Norovirus is a common viral infection which causes vomiting and diarrhoea. It is usually a mild illness, but can cause serious health issues for people who are already frail or unwell. It is more common in the winter but can be caught at any time of the year.
Norovirus is one of the most common causes of diarrhoea and vomiting in Wales and the rest of Europe. The illness can occur at any time of the year, but is more common in winter months.
There are about 3,500 reported cases annually in the UK, but it is believed that about 1 per cent of the population each year will pick up the infection.
The incubation period for Norovirus is anything from 24 hours to three days, and symptoms usually last 12-60 hours. The onset is sudden, and those affected often feel very nauseous and can start vomiting.
Other symptoms can include abdominal cramps, a headache, muscle pain, a high temperature, and loss of appetite.
People usually get over Norovirus within two or three days, but remain infectious for 48 hours, and even up to 72 hours after symptoms stop.
Antibiotics have no effect on viruses, including Norovirus. There is no medication to treat Norovirus – the illness needs to run its course.
How do you treat Norovirus?
In the vast majority of cases, self-care at home is the best way to get over Norovirus.
- Getting lots of rest
- Stay well hydrated
- Stay at home and avoid contact with other people for at least 48 hours after the last time you are sick or have diarrhoea. This includes not going to school, work, or to other public place
Staying well hydrated is the key to recovering from a nasty bout of Norovirus.
Try to sip little and often, even if you continue vomiting. Keeping your fluids topped up will help you to get back to normal as quickly as possible.
For babies or young children, you can collect oral rehydration solution from any pharmacy without the need for a prescription.
There is no medicine which can be taken to treat Norovirus – paracetamol, ibuprofen or any other medication, including antibiotics, will not assist in helping relieve the symptoms of the bug.
If you still feel you want advice or guidance, you can contact your GP for further assistance. If you feel unwell in the evening, at the weekend or over a bank holiday, and need advice contact your GP’s out-of-hours service.
Should I come to hospital if I’ve been poorly with diarrhoea and vomiting?
If you have felt ill with symptoms associated with Norovirus, the best thing to do is to stay at home, get plenty of rest and make sure you take plenty of fluids.
You need to wait for 48 hours after the last symptom of Norovirus presents itself before heading back out. So, for example, if you are ill on Monday at 11am, please don’t leave the house, return to work or visit friends until 11am on Wednesday.
This also means that you must not visit friends or loved ones in hospital if you’ve felt ill. Visiting hospital when you may have Norovirus puts people who are already very ill at increased risk of infection, and can also lead to staff who are there to care for people at risk.
Hygiene advice to help combat Norovirus
There are a number of ways of helping to prevent the spread of Norovirus and other infectious diseases through basic hygiene steps.
- Thorough handwashing is the most important prevention measure that you can take. Wash hands thoroughly with liquid soap and warm water and dry afterwards. Do not share towels
- Use gloves when handling soiled clothing, linen and materials
- Wash soiled clothing and bed linen on a hot cycle
- Disinfect toilet seats, flush handles, wash-hand basin taps and toilet door handles daily and after use when someone is ill
- Follow normal food hygiene advice, ensuring it is stored and prepared correctly and all food is kept covered until you are ready to eat it, if someone has diarrhoea or vomiting
Norovirus and people at risk
Norovirus is an unpleasant but relatively mild condition for most people.
However, for people who have other health conditions, or are at risk of developing complications when ill, it needs to be treated carefully.
Very young people, the elderly, and people with underlying health problems are all at risk of complications from Norovirus, in particular from dehydration.
It is important that anyone at particular risk is monitored carefully. If you are caring for someone, or are worried about your own health, seek advice from your GP or NHS direct.
Norovirus and the elderly or at risk
Dehydration is the biggest risk to elderly people with Norovirus. The signs to look out for include:
- Dizziness or light headedness
- Dry mouth, lips and eyes
- Dark, concentrated urine
- Passing only small amounts of urine infrequently – less than three or four times a day
Left unchecked, dehydration can make people very ill, with worsening symptoms which include low blood pressure, a weakened pulse, sunken eyes and cool hands and feet. If you are concerned about someone who has diarrhoea and vomiting and has some of these signs and symptoms please contact your GP.
The following advice will help elderly people stay well and prevent dehydration:
- Try to drink at least 200 mls (roughly a cup) of fluids after each instance of diarrhoea.
- If you vomit, wait 5-10 minutes and then start drinking again, but more slowly. For example, a sip every 2-3 minutes. Aim to drink the cup over a period of time.
- For most adults, fluids drunk to keep hydrated should mainly be water.
- Sugary drinks can make diarrhoea worse, so try to avoid them.
- Eat small, but regular, portions of light foods if you feel like eating.
- Oral rehydration solution, available from pharmacies, is recommended in people who are frail, over the age of 60, or who have underlying health problems. It should be given to counteract signs of dehydration. Your pharmacist can advise you on this.
Norovirus and young children
To avoid dehydration in young children, offer drinks regularly. If possible, avoid undiluted fruit juice and sugary, fizzy drinks, as they do not provide as much hydration as water-based alternatives. Try to keep them on their normal diet, but with frequent, smaller portions – and avoid greasy foods which can irritate the stomach.
It is important to continue to give infants breast milk or formula, and aim to provide short, frequent feeds.
- If your child shows signs of dehydration, you can give your child a special fluid called oral rehydration solution which is available at pharmacies. It helps to replace the water and salts lost from the body because of diarrhoea and vomiting. Your pharmacist can advise you on this.
When to call your doctor
You should seek further medical advice if you spot any of the following symptoms:
- Your child is less than six months old; or is older, but has a fever of over 38.5°C (101.5°F)
- Vomiting with great force
- Bloody or green slimy vomit
- Failing to pass urine in eight hours
- Bloody or slimy stools
- Listlessness or unusually sleepy behaviour
- Continuous abdominal pain for over two hours