Hospital ward closed amid above-average spread of norovirus across Scotland

Public Health Scotland is monitoring the winter vomiting bug after cases grew above the five-year average.

Hospital ward closed amid above-average spread of norovirus across Scotland Getty Images

A hospital ward has been forced to close due to the spread of norovirus amid above-average winter vomiting bug case numbers across Scotland.

The country’s public health watchdog has told STV News it is “monitoring” the highly infectious virus and confirmed casels are above the five-year average.

Public Health Scotland (PHS) warned that norovirus can be transmitted from person to person by contaminated objects and surfaces.

It comes after the NHS Western Isles was forced to close a ward at the Western Isles Hospital on the Isle of Lewis due to cases of the bug.

The board urged the public to help in prevent the spread of the virus adding that it can be “dangerous” when it spreads across hospitals and care homes.

“It can be very unpleasant, but usually goes away in about two days,” NHS Western Isles said.

“However, if it spreads across hospitals or care homes, it can be dangerous for those who are most vulnerable and can also cause significant service disruption.”

What is norovirus?

Norovirus, sometimes referred to as winter vomiting bug, is a viral infection causing a range of short-lasting symptoms that includes vomiting, diarrhoea, and stomach cramping.

It is more common over the winter months and PHS advises the public to observe good hand hygiene habits to prevent spread of infection.

The NHS says hand washing is very important – using soap and water as alcohol-based hand rub may be ineffective for norovirus.

PHS advice recommends avoiding visiting elderly relatives or other vulnerable individuals, particularly if they are in a care home or hospital, as well as avoiding preparing meals for others if you are unwell.

A PHS spokesperson said that levels of norovirus is seasonal and cases numbers tend to fluctuate.

“One of the main factors is that we know that not everyone who is unwell with vomiting gets tested,” they said.

“Therefore, both increased disease activity and increased testing can lead to increases in the positive numbers of tests being recorded.”

What should you do if you catch the bug?

NHS Western Isles medical director Dr Frank McAuley said: “If you have norovirus, you can usually treat yourself or your child at home.

“The most important thing is to rest and have lots of fluids to avoid dehydration. You will usually start to feel better in two to three days.

“It’s important that you stay off school, nursery or work until you have not been sick or had diarrhoea for at least 48 hours – as this is when you are most infectious.

“It’s also very important that you do not visit hospitals or care homes during that infectious period.”

“Avoid giving fizzy drinks or fruit juice to children as it can make their diarrhoea worse. Babies should continue to feed as usual, either with breast milk or other milk feeds.

“You can also take paracetamol for any fever or aches and pains, get plenty of rest, and use special rehydration drinks, available from community pharmacies if you have signs of dehydration, such as a dry mouth or dark urine.

“Babies and young children, especially under a year old, have a greater risk of becoming dehydrated, so keep a close eye on their symptoms and contact 111 for advice if you have concerns.”

The NHS Inform website offers further advice on symptoms and public health advice on limiting spread of this infection to others.

If you have symptoms that you are concerned about, you can phone your GP or NHS24 on 111 for advice.

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