Stopping the norovirus spread

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 06:24 05/10/2012

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Palmerston North Hospital has only dealt with one case of norovirus this winter, avoiding the widespread infections hampering hospitals further north.

The hospital closed a ward to admissions for several days in September because of an outbreak of gastroenteritis.

During the outbreak, which occurred between September 4 and 17,  one patient, admitted from a residential care home, was confirmed with norovirus.

Hospital director of patient safety and clinical effectiveness Muriel Hancock said 10 patients contracted gastroenteritis and three staff were also affected.

At Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital, more than 100 people have been affected by norovirus, a serious form of gastroenteritis.

At least 57 staff had been sent home with the virus and 56 patients were affected.

In Tauranga, about 30 hospital patients were said to have contracted the virus, but that had been downgraded yesterday to fewer than 20.

Ms Hancock said all patients admitted to Palmerston North with symptoms of gastroenteritis were cared for in isolation  for 48 hours until their symptoms had been resolved.

‘‘While in isolation, staff will wear gloves and gowns for all patient care. The staff in the affected ward were prompt in their recognition of the outbreak and systems are in place to support them instigate control measures.

‘‘There has also been considerable effort to raise staff and visitor awareness of hand hygiene which we believe has contributed to the short duration of the outbreak.’’

Ms Hancock said norovirus was an ‘‘extremely difficult’’ virus to contain because  it did not require much exposure to make a person unwell.

‘‘Once an outbreak is established the key is to reduce potential exposure to patients and staff; this can be very challenging in an acute healthcare facility.

‘‘MidCentral Health has a strong team focus to help resolve these situations. However,  it takes time and careful planning to manage the situation.’’

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- Manawatu Standard

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