Norovirus warning after hospital outbreaks

Patients with norovirus have been warned not to visit their GP after a rise in hospital outbreaks led to ward closures.

Reports of norovirus have risen 50% in hospitals since October and there have been 43 outbreaks and 39 ward closures. Laboratory reports of the condition doubled in November compared to October.

But experts have warned the public not to visit their GP for fear it will spread the highly contagious bug to other people.

Instead, patients are asked to ring their GP practice or NHS Direct for further information.

John Harris, a HPA epidemiologist, said: ‘Norovirus comes on fairly suddenly, with little warning and is highly contagious. Anyone who thinks they may have it should not go to their doctor’s surgery or A&E as this could spread the illness to vulnerable people and healthcare workers.

‘This is particularly important in hospitals as norovirus outbreaks can lead to the ward closures and severe disruption to hospital services.’

Dr Bob Adak, head of epidemiological services in the gastrointestinal diseases department at the HPA, said: ‘The first port of call if someone has symptoms consistent with norovirus should be to call NHS Direct or their local GP practice for advice.’

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