‘Keep calm’ and keep winter bugs out of healthcare settings
Health organisations across Northumberland are reminding people about the importance of good hand hygiene and practising good self-care to help reduce the spread of winter bugs in healthcare settings.
As part of the regional NHS ‘Keep Calm’ awareness campaign, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) are keen for the public to help stop the spread of diarrhoea and vomiting – known as norovirus – which is currently circulating in the community.
Norovirus is a very common and unpleasant gastrointestinal virus which causes diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal cramps and usually lasts 24-72 hours. Although it is a self-limiting illness and rarely serious, even in the elderly or the very young, it is highly infectious and spreads rapidly in care homes and hospitals where it affects those who are already poorly, prolonging their recovery.
Health leaders are urging people to ‘keep calm’ and look after themselves well at home if they develop symptoms of norovirus and also to follow the 48-hour symptom-free rule before returning to work or visiting loved ones in hospitals or care homes.
Diane Sisterson, lead nurse for infection prevention and control at Northumbria Healthcare, features in the regional NHS ‘keep calm’ campaign. She explains: “It is vital that anyone who is feeling unwell themselves and has symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhoea, or has been looking after children with these symptoms, does not visit any loved ones in hospitals or care homes until they have been symptom-free for at least 48 hours.
“This is because you can still be infectious up to 48 hours after symptoms have stopped and you may risk infecting patients who are much more vulnerable than you.”
The local NHS is also reminding people of the importance of washing hands thoroughly with soap and water as the single most important thing people can do to help stop the spread of norovirus.
Good hand hygiene should always be done as a matter of routine:
· before eating or handling food
· after using the toilet
· after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
· after touching animals or animal waste
· after handling rubbish
· after changing a nappy
· before and after touching an unwell or injured person
· before and after visiting a care home or hospital ward
Dr Alistair Blair of NHS Northumberland CCG said: “People in hospital or care homes are often elderly, vulnerable patients and norovirus can be particularly nasty and can result in lengthened stays and make recovery from their original illness much longer.
“We know there is a lot of norovirus circulating in the community at present and we are asking members of the public suffering from diarrhoea or vomiting not to visit friends or relatives in hospital until they have been symptom-free for at least 48 hours as they risk passing on the illness to those who are already unwell.
“We are also urging people to keep calm if they do develop norovirus symptoms as we know that sickness and diarrhoea are best treated by staying at home, drinking plenty of fluids and getting some rest while the virus runs its course which usually only lasts a few days.”
Advice is always available online from NHS Choices www.nhs.uk or by calling NHS 111 if symptoms persist.
The regional NHS ‘Keep Calm’ campaign is being led by CCGs across the North East and includes a dedicated website with information on how to look after yourself well this winter: www.keepcalmthiswinter.org.uk.