WITH the cold months finally in the past, hospital bosses are working to see how they can reduce the impact of the so-called winter vomiting bug at hospitals in Worcestershire.
In February and March 144 patients and 23 staff at Redditch's Alexandra Hospital, Worcestershire Royal Hospital and Kidderminster Hospital fell ill with norovirus, which causes vomiting and diarrhoea, and various wards had to be closed to visitors.
Various wards at the three hospitals run by Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust have been closed to visitors throughout that past few months as a result of outbreaks of the virus, which cases vomiting and diarrhoea.
Only the Acute Medical Unit at Worcestershire Royal Hospital remains closed to visitors, while all other wards are open as normal.
At a recent meeting of the trust chief executive Penny Venables said fewer cases have been reported in the county's hospitals this winter than last year, but it remained a problem.
"What we discovered was that this year we saw a lot of the strain where people relapse," she said.
"They get it and they think they’re better but suddenly they've got it again.
"At the Alex we contained it very well but we've had more problems in Worcester but that's a problem with the design of the wards."
The trust's infection control lead David Shakespeare said the organisation was forced to close wards when a case of the virus was detected as it is extremely infectious and can spread very quickly.
"It's very easily caught and it could last for days," he said
"If we get someone who's showing the symptoms we will try and move them to a side room to keep them away from other patients.
"If we can't do that we cohort a bay, meaning we don't let anyone in or out until we're completely clear of the infection."
He said staff showing symptoms of the virus are also asked to stay at home and he and his team have daily updates from all wards as well as care homes, schools and the wider community.
"If it's in the community chances are it can come into hospitals so we have to be aware of where it is," he said.
"We always say if you're ill enough to be in hospital and you get the virus as well that can be very serious."
He said the trust would be looking at how the most recent cases were dealt with to see what could be done better in the future.
There is no treatment for norovirus except for letting it run its course and people suffering from the illness are advised to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, wash their hands thoroughly after using the toilet and not prepare food for others until at least 48 hours after symptoms have subsided.
Towels and flannels should also not be shared and all surfaces should be thoroughly disinfected.
For advice call your GP or NHS 111.