People are being advised to take stringent hygiene precautions, after norovirus – the ‘winter vomiting bug’ – led to the closure of two wards at Southampton General Hospital.
Patients and visitors should avoid coming to the hospital unless it is absolutely necessary, to help prevent the bug spreading.
Southampton General Hospital have shut six wards to new admission following an outbreak of norovirus.
Norovirus is the most common stomach bug in the UK that affects people of all ages, is highly contagious and causes vomiting and diarrhoea.
Video. New research carried out in the South could help wipe out the winter vomiting bug norovirus, saving hundreds of lives. Scientists from the University of Southampton have discovered that copper kills the bug almost instantly.
Experts say if the surfaces we touch constantly like door handles, taps and stair rails are made with the metal, it would drastically reduce the spread of infections. Christine Alsford spoke to Professor Bill Keevil from the University of Southampton and a norovirus patient Serena Spencer-Jones.
Scientists from the University of Southampton have discovered that cooper and copper alloys rapidly destroy norovirus.
The study was designed to simulate fingertip touch contamination of surfaces and showed that the virus was rapidly destroyed on copper and its alloys.
The virus is highly infectious and can be contracted from contaminated food or water, person-to-person contact and contact with contaminated surfaces, meaning surfaces made from copper could effectively shut down one avenue of infection.
Lead author Sarah Warnes, from the Centre for Biological Sciences at the University of Southampton said, "The use of antimicrobial surfaces containing copper in clinical and community environments, such as cruise ships and care facilities, could help to reduce the spread of norovirus."
Managers at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading are introducing visiting restrictions to protect patients from coming into contact with the Norovirus.
Vistors are being asked to only come to the hospital if it is essential. The plea is part of an effort to stop the bug spreading. Parents whose children are patients in the children's wards may visit but should not bring their children's brothers or sisters with them.
Staff at Southampton’s teaching hospitals have introduced a temporary restriction on visitors to prevent further spread of the winter vomiting bugs.
While only four wards at Southampton General Hospital remain closed to new admissions, doctors are concerned that sustained high levels of diarrhoea and vomiting in the community could worsen the situation if visitors bring the infection into the hospital.
“We have contained the spread of sickness bugs within hospital well throughout November and December and over Christmas.
But cases have remained high outside and we are now beginning to see that have an effect on us,” explained Judy Gillow, director of nursing at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust.
Despite the restrictions, visiting is permitted on agreement with nursing staff. Anyone planning to visit Southampton General, the Princess Anne Hospital or hospice Countess Mountbatten House is askedto call their relevant ward and department.
Dozens of passengers are thought to have been struck down by the winter sickness bug Norovirus on the luxury cruise liner the Queen Mary 2. The ship, which sails out of Southampton, is on a 12 night tour of the Caribbean.
In a statement, Cunard, which operates the cruise ship, said:
"There has been an incidence of a mild gastrointestinal illness among the passengers on Queen Mary 2. This illness is suspected to be norovirus, which is highly contagious and typically transmitted from person to person.
Norovirus is common throughout the UK, Europe and North America and has affected a number of schools, hospitals, nursing homes and children’s day care centres this winter.
Queen Mary 2 is currently on a 12 night Caribbean cruise which departed from New York on Saturday December 22. There are 2613 passengers on board, the number of passengers with active symptoms today is 19.
Enhanced sanitation protocols have been employed to help minimize transmission to other passengers. These comprehensive disinfection protocols have been developed by Cunard Line in conjunction with UK and U.S. public health authorities.
The safety and comfort of passengers and crew is always our number one priority.
As is currently standard procedure across our fleet, all the ship’s passengers were provided with a precautionary health notice advising of widespread norovirus activity and the health measures to avoid contraction and spread, both on board and whilst ashore."
Hundreds of passengers were affected by the bug on the cruise ship Oriana earlier this month.
East Surrey Hospital is closed to visitors for the safety of its patients. To keep the hospital beds open and ready for seriously ill people, all visitors are being asked to stay away.Paul Simpson, Deputy Chief Executive of the healthcare Trust that manages the hospital said:
“No visitors are currently allowed onto the wards. This a decision that is not taken lightly, but is necessary to help control the spread of norovirus. After opening visiting again on Christmas Eve, we have patients in five wards affected by norovirus....we have to stop visiting altogether."
He added "We will be reviewing the situation daily, and we advise people to check our website or call our switchboard on 01737 768511 to hear the latest information about visiting restrictions.”
VIDEO: Fred and Sangeeta link to Derek Johnson, who has an update on hospitals affected by Norovirus.
A passenger on board a second cruise ship which was hit by the winter vomiting bug says many more were infected. P&O said there were only ten passengers showed symptoms of the norovirus on the Azura which docked in Southampton today. But Michael Edwards said the real figure was much higher.
The ship underwent a "deep clean" ahead of another sailing at 6pm tonight. The Azura came into Southampton a day after its sister ship, the Oriana, docked in the city after 417 outbreaks onboard during a ten day cruise to the Baltics. P&O said the safety of staff and crew were its top priority.