Norovirus: stricken nurses urged to stay at home until 48 hours after symptoms pass

Winter vomiting bug causes spike in NHS bed closures as hospitals work to contain its spread

Winter vomiting bug causes spike in NHS bed closures as hospitals work to contain its spread

Picture: PA

A surge in norovirus cases has led to the closure of more than 1,100 hospital beds in England in the past week.

The highly contagious winter vomiting bug has caused the closure of almost twice as many hospital beds as in the same week last year. 

Bed closures happen when hospitals try to avoid discharging infected patients into the community, or admitting patients on to wards where norovirus is known to be present.  

Data from Public Health England reveal the cases for November 11-24 were 28% higher than the previous five-year average.

Returning to work too soon risks spreading the infection

The RCN urges nurses taken ill with norovirus not to return to work too early to prevent passing the virus on, so putting further strain on staffing.

NHS England advises that no one to return to work until at least 48 hours after symptoms, which can include diarrhoea, pass.

RCN public health nursing lead, Helen Donovan, said: 'If staff return to work too early, they risk unknowingly passing on the illness, as they remain infectious,' she said. 

'Norovirus presents a big winter challenge to nursing staff who are already working in a challenging environment with one in ten posts vacant.'

Soap and water a stronger defence than sanitisers on their own

Ms Donovan advises nurses to wash hands with soap and water wherever possible because this is more effective against norovirus than hand sanitisers alone.

NHS medical director Stephen Powis said: 'We've already seen a number of hospitals and schools affected by norovirus, and unfortunately instances like these are likely to rise over the coming weeks.

'It's a really unpleasant illness to catch, but for the vast majority of people it will usually pass in a couple of days. Self-treating at home is the best way to help yourself and avoid putting others at risk.'

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