Sometimes it is necessary to close a ward to visitors to prevent the spread of viruses such as norovirus which is often found in the community and can spread quickly in hospital.

Norovirus is a virus that causes gastroenteritis (stomach bug). Noroviruses are a group of viruses that are the most common cause of stomach bugs. They are also known as ‘winter vomiting viruses’, ‘small round structured viruses’ or ‘Norwalk-like viruses’. What is norovirus?

How do people get norovirus?

Norovirus is passed from one person to another by contact with an infected person; by consuming contaminated food and water or by contact with contaminated surfaces or objects.

Norovirus often causes outbreaks because it is easily spread from one person to another and the virus is able to survive in the environment for many days. Large congregations of people provide an ideal environment for the spread of the disease. Healthcare settings tend to be particularly affected by outbreaks of norovirus.

What are the symptoms of norovirus?

The symptoms of norovirus infection begin 12 – 48 hours after becoming infected.

Most people experience a sudden onset of nausea (feeling sick) followed by projectile vomiting and watery diarrhoea. Some people may have a raised temperature, headaches and aching limbs.

Most people make a full recovery in 1 – 2 days, however this may be slightly longer for the very young, people with an underlying illness or the elderly. There are no long-term effects to this illness.

What is the treatment for norovirus?

There is no specific treatment for norovirus apart from letting the illness run its course. It is important to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.

How can the spread of norovirus be prevented in hospital?

If you have norovirus you may unintentionally spread the infection to other patients.

Therefore, to reduce the risk of passing the virus to other sick patients you will need to be isolated (nursed in a side room). You may be nursed in a side room with other patients of the same gender who also have norovirus. You can come out of the side room when you have been symptom-free for 48 hours.

To help ensure the virus is not passed on to others:

  • contaminated areas will be disinfected
  • all staff, patients and visitors will need to wash their hands with soap and water before and after contact with you
  • you should wash your hands with soap and water after using the toilet
  • there will be increased cleaning in your room and strict hygiene measures will be put in place
  • your visitors should not sit on your bed and should wash their hands with soap and water before leaving the ward
  • the ward may be closed to new admissions and visitors

If your visitors have had norovirus, they should not visit until they have been symptom-free for 72 hours.

For further information:

Hospital Infection Control Service
0121 554 3801 (ask for Infection Control Service)

Community Infection Control Nurse
0121 612 2903

Read our information leaflet about norovirus