Nursing Homes and Hospitals Cautioned to Remain Vigilant Against Winter Vomiting Bug Outbreak

As winter sets in, nursing homes and hospitals across the country are bracing themselves for the annual outbreak of the winter vomiting bug. Also known as norovirus, this highly contagious bug can spread rapidly in crowded environments, causing severe vomiting and diarrhea, and posing a significant risk to vulnerable elderly patients. While healthcare facilities have stepped up their infection control measures, campaigners are urging constant vigilance to prevent a surge in norovirus cases that could strain the already overburdened healthcare system. In this article, we explore the latest developments in norovirus outbreaks and the strategies that healthcare providers can adopt to keep the virus at bay.

There has been a significant rise in the number of people affected by the winter vomiting bug, or norovirus, in Ireland. Hospital patients and nursing home residents across the country have been infected, leading to a surge in outbreaks. Cases of norovirus are nearly four times higher nationally in the first 10 weeks of 2023, as compared to the same period in the previous year.

In total, 16 outbreaks of the infection have hit hospitals, with 92 patients and staff members experiencing vomiting and diarrhoea. Though the numbers of individuals infected in single-hospital outbreaks vary, the HSE spokesperson revealed that they have ranged from two to 24.

Additionally, 21 confirmed norovirus outbreaks have been reported in Irish nursing homes, with more than 370 people affected. The increasing prevalence of the bug has led to concerns over the overcrowding of healthcare facilities, with 665 patients recorded on trolleys as of yesterday morning.

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Are you affected by norovirus and unsure what can be done? So-called acute infectious gastroenteritis, another gastrointestinal disease that can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain in addition to other flu-like symptoms, has been reported in four nursing homes.

Dr. Paul McKeown, consultant in public health medicine at the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), has cautioned the public to take note of the symptoms and make themselves aware of the necessary precautions to stop infection from spreading. Norovirus is highly contagious and can last for an extended period on surfaces.

The HPSC is advising people to wash their hands regularly, especially before cooking or eating and after using the bathroom. It is important to note that while alcohol hand gels are effective against many germs, they do not work against norovirus. Those who have been ill with the virus should stay at home, refrain from visiting healthcare facilities or nursing homes, and avoid returning until 48 hours after their symptoms have subsided.

While it is often difficult to prevent the spread of norovirus, good hygiene practices and thorough disinfection cleaning of contaminated surfaces and clothing can help minimize the risk of contracting the virus. If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms, be sure to contact your GP’s surgery ahead of time to avoid further contamination.

In conclusion, it is vital to remain vigilant and take necessary precautions during the surge of the winter vomiting bug in nursing homes and hospitals. The spread of this infection can cause severe consequences for the elderly and vulnerable population. Therefore, it is crucial to follow good hand hygiene practices, wear personal protective equipment, and limit the number of visitors to the facility. Nursing homes and hospitals need to implement strict infection prevention and control measures to minimize the risk of the virus and ensure the safety and wellbeing of their residents and patients. By working together to prevent the spread of the winter vomiting bug, we can provide a healthier and safer environment for everyone in the care facility.

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