Tips to avoid winter bug

HELPFUL hints and tips on avoiding a nasty winter bug have been issued to residents across Northumberland.

The Northumbria Community Infection Control team has been touring the county with leaflets, advice and guidance on how to reduce the spread of Norovirus.

Its main focus has been on the county’s elderly population, due to their vulnerability to the virus and the likelihood of hospital admission, although Norovirus – known as the winter vomiting disease – affects people of all ages.

An estimated 4.5 per cent of the population is hit with the virus each year, which equates to around two million people in England and Wales.

Outbreaks of the illness are common as it spreads easily from person to person, particularly within contained environments such as care homes and schools.

The disease is present all year round, but incidents increase during winter months.

Symptoms include diarrhoea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps which usually last 24 to 72 hours.

It is rarely serious, even in the elderly or very young, however the disease is extremely contagious and spreads rapidly through communities and places where people congregate.

Northumberland County Council Executive Member for Adult Health, Care and Well-being Ian Lindley said: “Norovirus is a particularly nasty bug which can create problems to our most vulnerable residents, particularly those who have long term medical conditions.

“We can all do our bit to reduce or stop the spread of this virus by making sure we follow basic hygiene rules.

“The Infection Control team has worked in partnership with GPs, the Health Protection Agency, local authorities and also independent and voluntary sectors, including residential care home workers.

“Wiltshire Farm Foods has also kindly agreed to distribute information leaflets along with its pre-prepared meals.

“Hopefully we can all play a part in keeping communities healthy in 2012.”

Key advice issued during the campaign is as follows:

l Do not visit anyone in a care home or hospital if you have Norovirus symptoms.

l Always make sure you use antiseptic hand gel when entering or leaving a care home or hospital.

l Always wash your hands after using the toilet.

People who have the virus are advised to stay at home, take paracetamol to relieve fever and drink plenty of water to replace lost fluids. Most will make a full recovery within two or three days.

However, if you start to feel dehydrated it is important to seek medical help, particularly if you are elderly or have a long term medical condition.

For more information call NHS Direct on 0845 4647 or visit www.nhs.uk and type Norovirus into the search box.