When a group of patients have infections such as diarrhoea or vomiting which may be due to an infection, COVID- 19 or influenza (flu) we close the ward as a precaution and to help minimise the risk to others.
It means we don’t admit patients, and we avoid sending patients from this ward to other wards, hospitals, nursing homes or residential homes. This is to help prevent the spread of infection to other health care facilities.
We also ask visitors not to attend the closed ward unless there are special circumstances which should be discussed with the ward/dept manager. This is to further help reduce the spread of the infection.
What causes diarrhoea and vomiting?
Diarrhoea and vomiting can occur for other reasons other than infection. For example, patients might be affected by their antibiotics or have medical problems affecting their stomach or bowels. But until we are sure it is not due to an infection we must close the ward.
If an infection is thought to be the cause of the problem, it may be due to norovirus, also known as “winter vomiting virus” or “gastric flu”. This is a very common infection that is easily spread when people share rooms or live or work closely together, for example in the family home, schools, at work, in pubs, restaurants and hotels. Hospitals, therefore, can be affected by outbreaks of diarrhoea and vomiting. Such outbreaks are often started by people bringing the virus into the hospital.
How does norovirus affect people?
People affected will have diarrhoea or vomiting or both. It is obviously unpleasant, but normally only lasts a day or two, and causes no lasting effects.
Hundreds of thousands of people in England catch Norovirus every year. There is no specific treatment other than rest and plenty of fluids. Most people make a full recovery within 1 to 2 days. However, some people (usually the very young or the elderly) may become very dehydrated and require hospital treatment.
Infections such as COVID-19 and influenza are respiratory viral infections which can be easily spread from person to person. Please do not visit if you have symptoms such as a sore throat, cough, or sneezing. Make sure you keep up to date with vaccinations if you can have them.
- Always cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, preferably with a tissue.
- Use the nearest waste receptacle to dispose of the tissue after use.
- Wash your hands or clean them with alcohol-based rub.
What are we doing to prevent the spread of infections?
- As well as restricting patient and staff movement, we increase cleaning in the affected ward areas using disinfectant instead of normal detergents.
- We ask all staff to wash their hands with soap and water for diarrhoea and vomiting outbreaks instead of using alcohol gel.
- We ask all staff and visitors to close all doors to the wards, patient bays and side rooms to prevent airborne spread of viruses
Patients are requested to:
- Make sure that you do not have too many personal items on the bedside table or locker top as this can make cleaning these surfaces difficult.
- Make sure you always wash your hands after going to the toilet and before eating. If you need help with this please ask a member of staff.
- Let a member of staff know if you are feeling unwell, have diarrhoea or have been sick so that he or she can take the correct precautions.
When will the ward re-open?
Whilst the ward is closed it will be visited daily by the Infection Prevention and Control Team to monitor the number of patients and staff affected by the infection.
The ward will be re-opened by the Infection Prevention and Control Team when there have been no further new patients with symptoms and it is deemed safe to do so.
Before reopening, the ward will have a thorough clean of all rooms, floors, furniture and equipment, the curtains will also be changed. Visitors will be permitted once this has been completed.
Information for visitors who are able to visit the closed ward under exceptional circumstances
Do not visit the hospital if you or your close family have had diarrhoea or vomiting or if you have respiratory symptoms. You should not visit until you have been clear of symptoms for at least 48 hours. If you live with someone very vulnerable to infection (for example young children, the elderly or those with lowered immunity) you should not visit during an outbreak. Even if you are in good health, only essential visits are advised.
Please wash your hands with soap and water on arrival to the ward and when you leave. Soap and water is more effective than hand gel, especially with viruses which cause diarrhoea and vomiting and respiratory infections.
If you are visiting more than one person in hospital, please visit the closed ward last, before you go home.
Please ask the ward staff; they will do their best to help. If they can’t help, they will contact the Infection Prevention & Control Department for you.