Two local NHS organisations are teaming up to issue health advice for local residents, following an increase in cases of diarrhoea and vomiting in the community, which is probably due to Winter Vomiting Disease (also known as norovirus).

Wandsworth Primary Care Trust (PCT) and St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have both seen an increase in cases of this virus, which is a type of gastro-enteritis that occurs mainly in the winter months. It affects approximately 600,000 to 1 million people in the UK each year.

Winter Vomiting Disease is a brief illness, which usually lasts for one to three days.

Symptoms include:

  • Nausea (feeling sick)
  • Sudden onset of vomiting (often projectile)
  • Diarrhoea
  • Stomach pains or cramps
  • Headaches
  • Fever
  • Tiredness

The virus is easily spread from one person to another. It can be caught by contact with an infected person, by consuming contaminated food or water, or by contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. People can remain infectious for up to 48 hours after the symptoms have finished.

Local GP and Joint Medical Director at Wandsworth PCT, Dr David Finch, gave this advice for anyone worried about the disease:

“Winter Vomiting Disease can be very unpleasant, but it is rarely serious. Most people make a full recovery within one or two days. Because there’s no specific treatment for the virus, there is nothing your doctor can do to speed this up. It’s best to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration and just let the illness run its course.

“People with diarrhoea and vomiting should seek medical advice only if their symptoms are severe or last more than 48 hours, or if they have other complicating factors (for example if they have diabetes and are on insulin). Older people and children under one-year old may also need to seek medical advice. It is best to telephone your doctor for advice, rather than attend the surgery to avoid passing on the infection.”

Dr Ruth Ruggles, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control for the South West London Health Protection Unit, said:

“This virus is spread extremely easily. It’s important to wash and dry your hands well after going to the toilet and before you handle food.”

Dr Finch added:

“Employers should be aware of this disease and immediately send home any employees suffering from the illness. Parents should also keep infected children away from school until 48 hours after the symptoms have passed.”

St George’s Hospital currently has three wards closed to admissions because of the virus. The hospital is urging anyone with diarrhoea and vomiting not to come to hospital, but to contact NHS Direct on 0845 4647 for advice. St George’s Infection Control Doctor Aodhan Breathnach says:

“There are two key messages for the public. First, unless your symptoms are very severe or long lasting, you should not come to the hospital for treatment of this virus. By doing so, all members of the public will do is pass it on to staff and other patients, affecting the healthcare of many other people as a result.

“Second, anyone with a friend or relative at St George’s should please note that access to our wards is being very carefully controlled to help prevent the spread of the infection. If you would like to visit someone at St George’s, please call us in advance on 020 8672 1255, and ask to speak to the Sister in charge of the ward involved. They will be able to advise whether you should visit or not.

“We feel we have to take swift and firm action to try to prevent the further spread of this infection, and we are very grateful for the co-operation of local people, our patients and our staff.”

More information about the Winter Vomiting Disease can be found on the Health Protection Agency website.

Notes to editors

  1. For more information please contact Sally Usher, Head of Communications, Wandsworth PCT on 020 8682 6784.