NEW stands have been placed in the main foyer of Craigavon Area Hospital warning the public not to visit if they have had vomiting or diarrhoea in the past 48 hours.
The move comes as the winter vomiting virus, also knows as norovirus, makes its presence felt in the Portadown and surrounding areas.
The Public Health Agency (PHA) has said that although the virus has been reported across Northern Ireland, it is not unusual for this time of year.
A spokesperson for the agency said it recorded outbreaks in nursing homes and hospitals and hadn’t been informed of any outbreaks in the local area, although it was aware the virus was “out there in the community”.
Paula Morgan of Orchard Pharmacy in Mandeville Street said there was a lot of vomiting and diarrhoea in the community. She said, “It is affecting of children and elderly people in particular, who would be the most vulnerable groups.
“Sore throats have been a feature as well although that is common at this time of year.”
Dr Gerry Waldron, acting assistant director of public health (health protection) at the PHA, said: “We would expect to experience seasonal rises of the winter vomiting virus as we approach midwinter and this year is no different.
“The winter vomiting virus is a frequent hazard to health that causes unpleasant and brief illness for many people. The most commonly reported symptoms are nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, which can begin suddenly.
“In some people, these are also accompanied by a raised temperature, headache and sore limbs. The illness can last as little as 12 hours or up to three days. Treatment is to stay at home, rest, take plenty of fluids, and reduce contact with others, both in the home and at work.
“It is very important that people who have symptoms do not visit hospitals or their GP surgery.”
Dr Waldron emphasised that the winter vomiting virus is very infectious and can be easily spread in close-knit communities such as residential or nursing homes, schools, hospitals and workplaces, and he warned the public to stay away from these until at least 48 hours after any symptoms stop.
He said the risk of infection can also be reduced by maintaining good personal hygiene, in particular washing hands after going to the toilet, and before preparing or eating food;
He added, “The reality for most people is that this is a short-term, unpleasant illness, with most of us getting better within a few days. However, we can all play a part in keeping it at bay and protecting more vulnerable people, to whom it can present a more serious risk.”
This was reiterated by Dr John Simpson, the Southern Health Trust’s medical director, who said, “I would urge people not to visit hospital if they or someone in their household has symptoms of cold, flu, vomiting or diarrhoea.
“Anybody who has flu and other viral infections should stay at home, rest, drink plenty of fluids and take over the counter remedies which may help ease symptoms and consult your GP if your condition is getting worse.”