The air is starting to get a little colder and the dark nights are drawing in, which means winter is coming.
And with winter comes the increase in cases of flu and norovirus – which is why we do a lot to ensure our staff, patients and visitors are all educated and vaccinated.
Norovirus is highly infectious and easily spreads through hand-to-hand contact, or by touching surfaces which have germs on them. Anyone with flu symptoms will be infectious for at least five days from when they become ill and can spread the infection to others.
For the majority of people, flu is unpleasant but not life-threatening. However, it can be very serious for those groups at risk of developing complications including people with weakened immune systems, as well as those with underlying conditions such as liver, lung or renal disease, heart problems or diabetes and pregnant women.
The flu vaccination is offered to every ULHT member of staff free of charge. Members of the public can contact their GP to find out more about how to get a flu vaccine. The vaccination is free if you are aged over 65 years, are pregnant, have a long term condition (such as diabetes, asthma, heart disease or multiple sclerosis) or are a carer.
Good hand hygiene can help to limit the spread of the infection and there are some simple steps that the public can take to help stop norovirus spreading. These include washing your hands frequently and thoroughly with hot soap and warm water, particularly after using the toilet and before preparing food. If you’re in a hospital, pay attention to hand hygiene notices such those asking you to use alcohol-based hand rub upon entering and leaving the ward.
People worried about prolonged symptoms should contact NHS 111 or ring their GP, not visit their surgery. They will be able to provide advice for people who are at greater risk from dehydration from diarrhoea and vomiting, such as young children or the elderly.
How to practice good hand hygiene
- Ensure you regularly use alcohol hand rub available on all wards to clean your hands, especially before touching patients
- Wash your hands with soap and water when anyone has diarrhoea, to prevent the spread of infections such as norovirus which can be a problem during the winter months
- If you have symptoms such as diarrhoea and vomiting do not visit the hospitals until you have been clear of these symptoms for at least 48 hours