18 November 2016
An increase in norovirus activity in both Jersey and the UK has prompted a reminder from the Health and Social Services Department (HSSD) about important precautions that should be adopted to combat the spread of the virus.
Norovirus has been diagnosed within the community and temporary closures have been implemented in five premises across the Island (four have since reopened). There have also been isolated cases at Jersey General Hospital, although this has not affected business as usual.
Symptoms of norovirus include one or more of diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, malaise and vomiting and will usually resolve spontaneously within 48-72hrs. It is rarely serious but can spread rapidly, particularly within institutions. Resting at home, ensuring adequate hydration and appropriate use of paracetamol are usually sufficient.
Illness however may be more severe particularly in the very young, the very old and in those with underlying medical conditions. Individuals who are concerned about their symptoms, whether because of dehydration (thirst, light-headedness, headache, tiredness, dry mouth, dark urine, small amounts of urine) or are concerned that their symptoms may reflect another condition or if their symptoms last more than 48- 72hrs, should in the first instance, contact their GP for advice.
Consultant Microbiologist at Jersey General Hospital, Dr Ivan Muscat, said individuals with symptoms of norovirus infection should avoid visiting the hospital and other institutions, including food outlets, until completely asymptomatic. He added that workers in catering and in health establishments should not return to work for 48 hours from the time of their last symptoms.
“Even in the absence of known norovirus cases in an area or institution, enhanced measures to ensure hygiene are important in helping to limit illness” he said.
Recommended measures are:
- increased hand hygiene with soap and water (alcohol gels are not effective against norovirus)
- increased hygiene in food preparation/handling sites and toilet areas, using chlorine-based agents if at all possible
- caterers and those supervising healthcare facilities should take extra care to ensure that their staff are not unwell
Dr Muscat added that taking precautions to combat the spread of norovirus would be especially important once the start of the Christmas party season was reached, given that the increased frequency of social gatherings could lead to a higher risk of the virus spreading.