Norovirus hits Wairau Hospital

An outbreak of vomiting and diarrhoea at Wairau Hospital in Blenheim has been confirmed as norovirus, the Nelson Marlborough medical officer of health says.

Four more hospital staff were struck down by the bug this week, bringing to 20 the total number of staff affected since July 2, Dr Ed Kiddle said.

The outbreak was confirmed by laboratory tests yesterday.

Four patients had similar symptoms of gastroenteritis, vomiting and diarrhoea, last week but factors other than norovirus could have been the cause.

Norovirus was very infectious and not just a hospital problem, Dr Kiddle warned.

"It would probably be the most common cause of diarrhoea and vomiting in the community, and there are some basic precautions that people can follow to minimise spread," Dr Kiddle said.

"The incubation period is 12 to 48 hours after contact with the virus, usually after having direct contact with a sick person and not washing your hands well; by eating food that has been contaminated by the virus, or by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your mouth," he said.

Anyone with symptoms should not return to work until 48 hours after their last bout of diarrhoea or vomiting as people were still infectious until then, he said.

Children and adolescents should wait 48 hours before returning to school.

Immunity after a norovirus illness was thought to be short-lived - about 14 weeks - and might only relate to that strain, he said.

"If you are concerned about yourself or a family member, seek advice from a GP or practice nurse," Dr Kiddle said.

"If you are sick with diarrhoea or vomiting, you should stay away from child centres, school or work.

"It is also important to not visit rest homes, hospitals, or be out in large groups of people while you have symptoms, and for 48 hours after the symptoms stop.

"You should also not prepare food for others during this time."

Symptoms of norovirus include sudden onset of diarrhoea and/or vomiting, nausea, fever, abdominal cramps, muscle aches or headaches.

"Although there is no specific treatment for norovirus, it is important to continue drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration," Dr Kiddle said. "Signs of dehydration can include a dry mouth and tongue, sunken eyes, cold hands and feet, and unusual sleepiness or lack of energy."

A Blenheim rest home was placed in quarantine last week after three residents and four staff were struck down by vomiting and diarrhoea.

Redwood Lifestyle Care and Village in Cleghorn St reopened on Monday. The cause of the outbreak had not been confirmed by yesterday.

The Marlborough Express