DO NOT come to hospital if you are suffering with the winter sickness bug, St George’s Hospital has warned.

The winter virus which causes diarrhoea and vomiting is described as ‘unpleasant but rarely serious’ by doctors, but by bringing the virus into hospital you could be putting vulnerable patients and healthcare workers at risk. And doctors at the hospital warn that too many members of the public with the illness have walked straight past signs asking them not to enter St George’s – which has serious consequences for other patients and staff throughout the hospital.

St George’s Infection Control Doctor Aodhan Breathnach says: “From our own careful monitoring of the situation, it is clear that visitors who are suffering from, or who have recently suffered from this virus, have contributed to the problem by bringing the infection into the hospital.”

“The consequences for other patients are serious. Because we need to close wards to disinfect them, the number of beds available for patient care falls, waiting times throughout the hospital lengthen and operations have to be cancelled.”

The Norovirus, also known as Winter Vomiting Disease, can be easily spread from one person to another. Patients who are struck by the illness tend to feel unwell for one to two days, but patients do not require hospital treatment except in exceptional circumstances.

Instead, doctors advise the only treatment is to rest, drink plenty of fluids and let the illness runs its own course. The virus will pass after around 48 hours.

St George’s as seen a rapid rise in cases at the hospital this winter, despite taking prompt action to protect their patients and staff.

“Since December last year we have had outbreaks of the Norovirus in eleven different wards and clinical areas,” explains Dr Breathnach. “This has forced the hospital to close these wards to new admissions to contain the virus and prevent it from spreading.”

People in the local community are now being asked help St George’s fight the virus by not visiting the hospital if they are suffering from the symptoms of the bug.

Dr Breathnach continues:

“Of course we understand that friends and relatives want to visit their loved-ones in hospital, but if they are suffering with the Winter Vomiting Virus, they need to stay away until they are no longer infectious. By bringing the virus into the hospital you are placing our infection control system under immense strain and putting our patients at risk.”

Each year the Norovirus can affect up to one million people in the UK. Although symptoms of the virus tend to pass in one to two days, people can remain infectious for up to a further 48 hours.

“We have taken quick action to prevent the disease from spreading more widely around the hospital,” Dr Breathnach continues, “but we need the help and consideration of visitors to keep the virus away from our patients and staff.”

Symptoms of the virus include nausea (feeling sick), a sudden onset of vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach pains or cramps, headaches, fever and tiredness.

Patients suffering with these symptoms are urged to call their GP or NHS Direct on 0845 4647 if they need advice.

“Winter Vomiting Disease can spread very easily from person to person. It is unpleasant, but rarely serious,” Dr Breathnach explains.

“Unless your symptoms very severe or long lasting please do not come to the hospital for treatment. By doing so, you will only pass the infection on to someone else.”

Notes to editors

  1. For more information, please contact Daniel Pople, Communications Manager at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, on 020 8725 5151 or e-mail
  2. 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.
  3. People with diarrhoea and vomiting should seek medical advice if their symptoms last more than 48 hours, or if they have a pre-existing medical condition.
  4. People with diarrhoea and vomiting should seek medical advice if their symptoms last more than 48 hours, or if they have a pre-existing medical condition.
  5. Older people and children under one years of age may also need to seek medical advice. If this is applicable to you, you should telephone your GP for advice rather than visiting the surgery. By doing so will pass the virus to someone else.
  6. Further information about the Winter Vomiting Disease can be found on the Health Protection Agency website at