Visitors to hospitals across North Wales this winter are being asked to help banish the bugs which can put a serious strain on services.
This time of year traditionally sees cases of sickness and diarrhoea rise considerably, causing admissions to be restricted, staff to go off ill and appointments to be postponed.
The bugs behind the winter blues are the two types of virus, Norovirus and Rotavirus, which cause short-lived unpleasant symptoms for the patient and a headache for hospital services.
Already the virus will be circulating in the community, waiting to thrive in a place where there is a lot of people movement and contact...such as a hospital.
A Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board spokesperson said: “The ideal environment for this virus to spread is any place where large numbers of people mix together which is why outbreaks of the illness are particularly common in hospitals.
"One the bugs gets into the hospital, they can make already poorly patients seriously ill, especially the elderly and those with chronic conditions.
“Although we have decontamination polices in place to combat outbreaks, these can take a few days to have an impact, meaning wards and services are still affected during an already busy time for the NHS.
"We might have to restrict visiting or even close wards until the problem is contained, meaning a lonely festive period for some patients.
"People can help the NHS beat the bugs and keeps services running over by choosing to take the few simple steps below:
· Wait at least 48 hours if you have experienced symptoms of vomiting or diarrhoea
· No more than two visitors to be at a patient’s bedside at any one time
· We strongly advise visitors not to bring small babies or children onto the wards
· Visitors should always wash their hands with soap and water before entering and exiting the ward
· Visitors should always use the chairs provided and not sit on beds
· Always wash your hands after visiting the toilet
The main symptoms of the Norovirus infection are sudden nausea, stomach ache followed by severe ‘projectile’ vomiting and or diarrhoea.
You may also have a slight fever, headache, stomach cramps and aching limbs. Symptoms usually begin between 12 – 48 hours after a person becomes infected, with most healthy people making a recovery within one to three days; however young children and elderly people can sometimes suffer complications, the most frequent of which is dehydration.
Sickness and diarrhoea can be best treated by staying at home, drinking plenty of fluids and getting some rest. Advice is available from your local pharmacist, or by logging on to www.nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk or calling 08454647.