Following an increase in levels of norovirus (commonly known as the winter vomiting bug) across Scotland, Health Protection Scotland (HPS) has confirmed that the norovirus season has begun.

Norovirus generally causes gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and/or diarrhoea but can be more serious amongst the elderly and people who are already unwell. 

Dr Ed James, NHS Borders Consultant Microbiologist says “Norovirus is a highly infectious virus that causes outbreaks in the community and within health and care settings every year.

There are currently no wards affected in Borders, however this week’s HPS norovirus report shows that four NHS Boards across Scotland are currently experiencing norovirus”.

Reminding the public of what they can do to help, Evelyn Rodger, NHS Borders Director of Nursing and Midwifery says: “To help reduce the risk of outbreaks in our hospitals, care settings and the wider community, we are again asking those of you who think you have norovirus to “Stay at Home” until at least 48 hours after any symptoms have stopped. Hand washing with soap and water is essential for individuals after using the toilet and any contact with people with diarrhoea symptoms. It is especially important to avoid visiting anyone in a hospital or care home.

Outbreaks of Norovirus start abruptly, spread quickly and can seriously affect the running of a hospital. Actions taken by patients, visitors and staff to avoid the spread of the virus can help minimise the impact.

Visitors to our hospitals are asked to comply with advice given on signs in reception and at the entrance to affected wards. The suspension of routine visiting is likely during an outbreak situation and visits with children should be minimised, where possible, during norovirus season.

With the help of the public we aim to limit the impact of any norovirus outbreaks that do occur and minimise disruption to healthcare services.”

Facts about norovirus:

  • Norovirus occurs all year round, particularly every winter, in the community, and is unrelated to hospital cleanliness.
  • There is no vaccine.
  • The virus continually changes and people don’t develop lasting immunity, so you can catch it more than once in a season.
  • Noroviruses can survive for days on any surface – including exposed food and wrapped food items.

Advice to the public:

  • Norovirus, commonly known as the winter vomiting bug, is a highly contagious virus which causes vomiting and/or diarrhoea.
  • The first sign of norovirus is usually a sudden sick feeling, followed by forceful vomiting and watery diarrhoea.
  • Symptoms usually last a couple of days, although this can be longer in elderly people.
  • People are most likely to spread infection when they have symptoms and for up to 48 hours after your symptoms have gone.
  • It is more serious and even more easily spread among people who are already ill.

What to do if you’ve got it:

There is no specific cure for norovirus – you just need to let it run its course (usually 2-3 days).

To help ease your symptoms and stop the virus spreading:

  • Stay at home until at least 48 hours after your symptoms have stopped.
  • Keep your hands clean.
  • Drink plenty of liquid, water is best. This will replace the fluids lost from vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • Eat foods that are easy to digest.

If your symptoms last longer than a few days, or you are worried about dehydration, call NHS Inform on 0800 22 44 88.

Preventing the spread of norovirus:

Norovirus can’t always be avoided, but you can help to prevent it spreading.

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water, particularly after using the toilet
  • Stay at home, avoid cooking for others, and don’t visit hospitals or care homes until at least 48 hours after your symptoms have gone.  You may still be infectious.  
  • Don’t share towels, flannels and toothbrushes.
  • Keep household surfaces clean.
  • Rinse fruit and vegetables well before eating them.