Stay home if you have norovirus

More than 20 people have been affected by an outbreak of norovirus at two Blenheim rest homes.

In the past week, more than 10 people in each of the two homes have been hit by the highly infectious vomiting and diarrhoea bug.

Nelson Marlborough medical officer of health Ed Kiddle said the care homes had notified public health and the affected patients had been quarantined.

Norovirus was widespread in the Marlborough community but only rest homes and schools were obliged to alert public health authorities if they had cases, Kiddle said. The elderly and young people, pre-schoolers in particular, were vulnerable to the bug.

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

Schools in Marlborough had been warned by public health officials to tell parents that if their child had symptoms of the virus to stay away from school for 48 hours after their symptoms had stopped, Kiddle said.

"If you have the symptoms you should not visit places like rest homes, hospitals or schools," Kiddle said.

"Norovirus is most severe for the elderly where a bout can cause dehydration. Rest homes have developed very good practices for restricting [family] visits, not transferring patients and managing the flow of staff so they don't move between wings of residential homes.

"If a patient is seriously ill and requires hospital treatment for dehydration the patient is flagged to St John and the hospital."

There had been no outbreak at Wairau Hospital, he confirmed.

Kiddle said that people should wash their hands thoroughly after using the toilet or before handling food to avoid infection and to prevent passing the bug on to other people.

The Marlborough Express