Hospital bug prompts warning over hygiene

Last updated 05:00 19/04/2014

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A gastro-bug has struck around 10 Waikato Hospital staff over the past week, prompting the district health board to issue a warning about staying away when sick.

An alert said there appeared to be "sporadic cases and clusters of acute gastroenteritis in the community and among staff in a variety of wards at Waikato Hospital".

Sick staff members were warned to stay away until they had been free of symptoms for 24 hours and to be extra-vigilant about hand hygiene.

Two to three areas within the hospital where several staff were off with vomiting and diarrhoea prompted the "heightened awareness", infection control committee chair Dr Graham Mills said.

It was unclear whether the virus had been spread between staff, come from patients or if it was just a random event.

Testing to determine if it was norovirus was underway.

In a hospital situation, patients who came in with diarrhoea and vomiting could often spread it to staff, Mills said.

"The staff are committed workers. They may be feeling a little bit off and they're not too bad, and they go to work. And then other staff get it, and away we go."

Symptoms could last from a few hours to a few days, and the district health board asked sick staff to stay home until they had been clear of them for 24 hours.

That was the same for any worker, Mills said.

"You might be off work for three or four days as a result.

"It's a hassle from a work perspective but it's a greater hassle to then spread it to other staff."

Hospital visitors were encouraged to stay away until they were well and to clean their hands when they entered and left wards.

And patients who developed symptoms should inform staff, who could move them to isolation if there were concerns.

Should the virus going around prove to be the "hardy" norovirus, the concern for the district health board was it could easily be spread to others.

"It's the hands that actually are that port of entry," Mills said.

"The faeces and the vomit both contain the virus.

"If they get onto your hands and then get onto other people's hands and then it gets into their mouth, then away you go."

So a high level of hand hygiene was essential.

Those suffering from vomiting and diarrhoea were also advised to drink lots of water, although it may be difficult. 

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- Waikato Times

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