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A number of wards at Doncaster Royal Infirmary have again been closed to new patients because they are affected by seasonal diarrhoea and vomiting – D&V or gastroenteritis – caused by the Norovirus. 


This is the second outbreak: wards at Doncaster Royal Infirmary and Montagu Hospital, along with wards in other local hospitals, were closed last December for the same reason. The outbreak then was controlled by closing wards, increased cleaning regimes, and a public appeal asking patients and visitors not to come to hospital if they have D&V.


D&V affects people of all ages. It is commonly transmitted by person-to-person contact where there has been inadequate hand hygiene after use of the toilet (faecal contamination).


So hospital staff are asking visitors to stay away and not risk bringing infections into hospital where vulnerable patients may be infected. Getting an infection while in hospital means a longer stay – and ‘blocks’ a bed that another patient may need.


Staff are saying to patients and visitors:

  • don’t come to hospital as an inpatient, outpatient, or visitor if you have any signs of a stomach upset
  • at home, always wash your hands thoroughly after using the lavatory and before handling food
  • if visiting someone in hospital is unavoidable, wash your hands before and after the visit. Use the hand gel provided at the entrances to the wards. Please don’t use patients’ lavatories
  • if you have had a stomach upset, wait until you have been free of symptoms for at least 48 hours before visiting hospital where there are sick and vulnerable patients.  

By working with us in this way, the public can help prevent infection in hospitals. 


Maurice Madeo, Deputy Director of Infection Prevention & Control, reminds everyone of the need for good hand hygiene: “Hand hygiene is the single most important thing that we can do to prevent the spread of infections.


“We advise staff to wash their hands before and after every patient contact – and that’s advice we could all adopt: wash your hands frequently and regularly with l hand wash or soap. Make sure that you really wash between your fingers, under your finger nails, and around your thumbs and wrists.


”We can't be too careful about limiting the spread of all infections. An infection on top of another medical condition can prove fatal to sick, frail patients. So we all need to be mindful of the need for best practice in personal hygiene."


The first sign of Norovirus is usually a sudden sick feeling followed by forceful vomiting and watery diarrhoea. Some people may also have:


  • a raised temperature (over 38oC/100.4oF)
  • headaches
  • stomach cramps
  • aching limbs.

Symptoms usually appear one to two days after becoming infected but they can start sooner. Most people make a full recovery within a couple of days. Apart from the risk of dehydration, the illness is not generally dangerous and there are usually no long-lasting effects from having Norovirus. However, it can be unpleasant while you have it.


The main risk of Norovirus is dehydration from losing water and salts from vomiting and diarrhoea. The first sign of dehydration is thirst. Other symptoms are:


  • dizziness or light-headedness
  • headache
  • tiredness
  • dry mouth, lips, and eyes
  • dark, concentrated urine
  • passing only small amounts of urine (fewer than three or four times a day).

Mild dehydration is common and can be easily reversed by having plenty to drink.


Dehydration is more of a risk in the very young and the elderly. It's important that to get medical attention straight away if someone is becoming dehydrated.


Norovirus affects households and schools, businesses, and hospitals at this time of year. It is estimated that Noroviruses, which are the most common cause of gastroenteritis, affect between 600,000 and 1m people in the UK each year. Patients admitted to hospital may not be aware they have the infection until the sudden onset of symptoms. As the viruses are highly infectious, they are easily transmitted and may affect other patients already on the ward.


The public should not be surprised that we close wards. By ‘close’, we mean that no new patients are admitted to the ward to protect them from the risk of infection, and to enable us to care for those already in hospital. Current patients continue to receive care of the highest standards. For further information please refer to the Doncaster & Bassetlaw Hospital web site.


We close wards to new admissions because this is the safe practice to contain and eliminate gastroenteritis. A study by the Health Protection Agency shows that outbreaks are shortened when control measures, such as closing wards to new admissions and implementing strict hygiene measures, are implemented quickly.


Trust staff are fighting back against the seasonal round of infections with a reminder to patients and visitors not to visit if they have flu-like symptoms, or diarrhoea and vomiting, even for several days after their illness has gone.

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