It is vital that members of the public take precautions to help prevent them catching or spreading the norovirus (commonly known as the ‘winter vomiting bug’) to others, says NHS Western Isles.

Norovirus is a highly contagious virus that spreads through direct contact, from contaminated surfaces including food, and from vomit droplets. 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 the symptoms have gone. It is more serious and even more easily spread among people who are already ill.

Visitors to hospitals and care homes in the Western Isles are therefore specifically being asked to wash their hands with soap and water before and after visiting, and to ‘Stay at Home’ if they have experienced any norovirus symptoms (for 48 hours after the last symptom).

NHS Western Isles Infection Control Manager, Janice Mackay, said: “Norovirus is the most common stomach bug in the UK, affecting people of all ages every year. The virus is easily spread by contact with an infected person, especially through their hands. Health professionals across NHS Scotland are working to minimise the likelihood of outbreaks arising and members of the public are being asked to play their part too. As the infection is so contagious, we would urge members of the public to ensure they follow infection control practices, and good hand hygiene is key to preventing the spread of infection.

“To help reduce the risk of outbreaks in hospitals, care settings and the wider community, we are again asking members of the public who think they might have norovirus to ‘Stay at Home’ until at least 48 hours after any symptoms have stopped.”

Preventing the spread of norovirus:

Mrs Mackay also highlighted steps to minimise the spread of norovirus:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, particularly after using the toilet.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water, not just alcohol gels.
  • Don’t share towels, flannels and toothbrushes.
  • Keep household surfaces clean.
  • Rinse fruit and vegetables well before eating them.

Additionally those with symptoms should

  • Drink plenty of fluids to stay well hydrated – water is best.
  • 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.
  • Keep your hands clean.
  • Eat foods that are easy to digest.