TWO wards at the Countess of Chester Hospital have been struck by the winter vomiting bug.
Visiting restrictions are in force in Newgate ward (50) and Cathedral ward (42) to help combat the Norovirus outbreak.
A total of 17 patients are affected.
“If you wish to visit a patient who is critically ill please contact the nurse in charge of the relevant ward via the hospital switchboard 01244 365000 for advice,” said a spokesperson at the Countess.
“Visiting to all other wards is currently normal, but we ask you to minimise visiting to a maximum of two visitors per patient at one time.
“Do not visit the hospital at all if you are unwell.”
All visitors to wards must disinfect their hands with alcohol gel before entering.
The trust has revealed it is currently experiencing an increase in the number of patients admitted with diarrhoea and vomiting.
The situation at the hospital is similar to that in other hospitals in the region and is a regular annual occurrence.
The disease is a viral gastro-enteritis, described as mild and short-lived.
Patients suffer nausea, vomiting, which is often a prominent feature of the illness and sometimes diarrhoea.
It is highly contagious and in previous years has caused numerous outbreaks of vomiting and diarrhoea in hospital wards, hotels and cruise ships.
The trust points out these episodes produce serious disruptions to acute services as staff and patients are affected and control measures sometimes lead to restricting admissions or closure of the ward.
“The prevention and control of all infections has a high priority at the Countess,” added the spokesperson.
“We have a number of robust infection prevention and control measures in place to combat diarrhoea and vomiting of viral or bacterial origin.”
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) North West has urged people with winter vomiting not to visit their GP surgeries or hospital accident and emergency units.
The agency says that although it can be unpleasant, the illness is short-lived and the majority of people, even the frail elderly, usually recover in 12 to 60 hours without treatment, other than rest and the replacement of fluids.
Health protection consultant Dr Hilary Thurston, said: “Our advice is that there is no need for anyone with winter vomiting to go to their GP surgery or hospital A&E unit where they would risk spreading infection to more vulnerable patients.
“They should stay at home, ensure that their personal hygiene is good, particularly hand-washing and avoid contact with others where possible.
“If symptoms persist for more than 60 hours, or if the patient suspects that norovirus infection may not be the cause of the symptoms, the patient should seek a telephone consultation with the family doctor or phone NHS Direct, the 24-hour health advice service.”
The NHS Direct number is 0845-4647.
People with norovirus infection are also strongly advised not to visit friends or relatives in hospitals or residential care homes.
They should stay off work and away from school until they have been completely free of symptoms for 48 hours.
Updated information can also be seen on the hospital’s website at www.coch.nhs.uk