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Medical Officer of Health gives Norovirus warning

28 November 2012

In the last few days, Jersey has been experiencing increasing problems with Norovirus infections. Much of the UK is similarly affected.

There are reports of a rising tide of infections in the community, in care homes as well as schools and some businesses. 

Update on the hospital

  • Bartlett Ward was closed last week because of Norovirus and remains closed
  • measures are being pursued to reduce the impact of Norovirus on other parts of the hospital
  • a small number of hospital staff have fallen ill and are away from their duties to help prevent further infection spread
  • as a precautionary measure, the seating section of the hospital dining room, which is normally open to the public, is currently closed to the public

Advice to the public


Norovirus is highly infectious. It is vital that anyone who is feeling unwell with gastrointestinal symptoms, vomiting and or diarrhoea, should not visit hospitals or their GP because this increases the risk of spreading the infection to patients and staff.

Outbreaks of norovirus gastroenteritis are common in semi-closed environments such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools and cruise ships.

Norovirus infection was historically known as 'winter vomiting disease' due to its seasonality and typical symptoms. The disease is more prominent during the winter months but infections can occur at any time of the year. It is also known as small round structured virus (SRSV) or Norwalk-like virus.

Wash hands frequently

Dr Susan Turnbull, Medical Officer of Health, said "My advice is to wash hands frequently and thoroughly, and make sure contaminated surfaces are thoroughly cleaned, ideally wearing plastic or rubber gloves and using detergent and then diluted bleach. I cannot stress strongly enough how important it is, when symptoms start that could be Norovirus, for people to:

  • go home from work, or from school as soon as practically possible
  • do not come to the hospital, or go to a GP surgery (and risk infecting others)
  • do not return to work / school until 48 hours after all symptoms have passed including vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal cramps

Thorough cleaning

Particular attention to good hygiene measures should be observed during outbreaks. It is very important to wash hands with soap and water particularly after contact with someone who is ill and after using the toilet, especially if suffering from symptoms.

Thorough cleaning of hard surfaces with detergent followed by disinfection with a bleach solution, paying particular attention to the toilet and toilet area and cleaning up vomit and the surrounding area quickly will help to reduce environmental contamination. This can reduce the risk of infection in others coming into contact with these surfaces later on.

Care must be taken when using bleach by following the manufacturer's instructions carefully to avoid injury when using such chemicals. Soft furnishings and materials should be washed following the manufacturer's instructions.

Highly infectious

Dr Susan Turnbull said "It is important that everyone plays their part in trying to slow down the spread of this highly infectious virus, its impact on our Island and particularly on our Hospital."

“Norovirus is the most common cause of infectious gastroenteritis (diarrhoea and vomiting) in the British Isles. The illness is generally self-limiting, although the symptoms can be very unpleasant while they last, often with sudden onset vomiting and /or diarrhoea.  Most people usually recover fully within 2-3 days.  The best advice is to keep as well hydrated as possible, by drinking little and often while the symptoms last.

"Unless there is severe dehydration, it is very unusual to need hospital treatment in people who are normally healthy. People with pre-existing serious medical conditions should, as with any new symptoms, seek early advice from their GP.  Even for the previously healthy, if vomiting and diarrhoea symptoms persist for more than three or four days, then medical advice should be sought from a GP.  But please don’t go to the GP’s surgery, and especially not to the hospital unless specifically advised by a doctor to do so."

"There are no long term effects that result from Norovirus infection.  Antibiotics are ineffective against it, as they are against any other viral infections.This virus is particularly problematic because it is highly contagious – spreading easily by contact with an infected person, eating contaminated food or water or by contact with contaminated surfaces or objects.   It is because profuse vomiting is such a common symptom that surfaces easily become contaminated, and rapidly infect further people if the surfaces are not thoroughly decontaminated and if hands are not washed regularly.

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