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120111 - Whangarei Hospital’s Ward 16 closes following Viral-Gastroenteritis Outbreak

A small viral gastroenteritis outbreak has been identified at Whangarei Hospital affecting 12 patients, who have been isolated. The hospital is again urging members of the public with viral gastroenteritis-like symptoms not to visit patients in hospital, or to call ahead for advice if they do need to visit.

Dr Mike Roberts, Northland DHB’s chief medical advisor said the hospital was awaiting laboratory results but in the meantime was assuming that the outbreak illness is Norovirus related.

“We have closed Ward 16 to new admissions and visitors to this ward will be restricted to two adult visitors per patient each visit. Children should not visit and visitors are required to wear protective clothing and engage in hand hygiene precautions.”

“We are also asking member of the public – if you are unwell or have been around people who have been unwell - do not visit the hospital for at least 48 hours.”

“Visitors displaying gastroenteritis-like symptoms won’t be permitted access to the ward unless there are exceptional circumstances and the visit has been cleared with the ward charge nurse or hospital duty manager,” said Dr Roberts.

Strict infection control measures are in place to reduce the risk for other patients within the hospital.

Norovirus symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach pains and feeling like throwing up.

Norovirus is normally only a mild to moderate illness but the elderly and the very young can have more serious disease. People with symptoms of gastroenteritis are advised to stay away from other people and see their family if the symptoms are severe or the illness does not get better after two days.

About Norovirus
  • Norovirus is a very common cause of gastroenteritis in the community.
  • The most usual ways of catching it are contact with infected people, eating contaminated food (especially shellfish) or drinking untreated water.
  • Symptoms are predominantly vomiting and diarrhea, stomach pains, aching muscles, feeling off-colour and a headache which usually last approximately 48 hours.
  • Those with symptoms should remain at home until at least 48 hours symptom free and avoid preparing food for others. In a family setting it is important for those with symptoms to avoid contact with the elderly and the young.
  • If symptoms are severe or prolonged, dehydration may occur. The illness is usually self-limiting but may be worse in the young and the elderly. Those severely affected should consult a doctor.
  • The most important way of preventing spread is thorough hand hygiene (washing hands for 20 seconds using soap and running water and drying for 20 seconds) after going to the toilet and before preparing food.
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