People suffering with the winter sickness bug Norovirus are being urged to stay away from hospital and instead contact their GP or pharmacy.

Norovirus, which causes diarrhoea and vomiting, is generally unpleasant but rarely serious. However, by bringing it into hospital, people could be putting vulnerable patients and healthcare workers at risk.

Symptoms of the virus tend to pass in one to two days but people can remain infectious for a further 48 hours. During this time, the illness can be easily spread from one person to another. Although the symptoms can be alarming, only in exceptional circumstances does the virus require hospital treatment.

Visitors to the hospital are being asked to wash hands with soap and water when entering and leaving wards and clinics to help keep the bug at bay.

Rick Holliman, infection control doctor at St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust, said:

“As a general rule, otherwise healthy adults suffering with diarrhoea and vomiting should not need to come to hospital for treatment. Anyone with concerns should seek telephone advice from their GP or NHS Direct.

“We appreciate that friends and relatives want to visit their loved-ones in hospital, but if they are suffering with any symptoms of this virus, they must stay away until they are no longer infectious – at least 48 hours after the symptoms have stopped. People bringing the virus into the hospital are putting vulnerable patients at risk.”

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People showing the following symptoms should not come into hospital:

  • nausea (feeling sick)
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • stomach pains or cramps
  • headaches
  • fever and tiredness

For further advice, people suffering with these symptoms are urged to call their GP or NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 ( Symptoms should pass within 60 hours. The advice of doctor’s is to rest, drink plenty of fluids and let the illness runs its own course.

Norovirus is the most common cause of infectious gastroenteritis in England and Wales. Although relatively mild, Norovirus illness can occur at any age because immunity to it is not long-lasting. The syndrome is commonly referred to as “winter vomiting disease” due to its seasonality and typical symptoms. Outbreaks of Norovirus gastroenteritis are common in semi-closed environments such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools and cruise ships.

People with diarrhoea and vomiting should seek medical advice if their symptoms last more than 60 hours, or if they have a pre-existing medical condition.

Older people and children under 12 months old may also need to seek medical advice via their GP.

More information about winter vomiting and diarrhoea illnesses can be found on the Health Protection Agency website: