The Science of Microbiology.
The Science of Microbiology. Linde Stewart

Norovirus outbreak spreads

DESPITE strict controls after an outbreak of norovirus at Hervey Bay Hospital, the highly contagious bug has spread to Maryborough Hospital.

Some visitors were asked to stay away from Hervey Bay Hospital after five patients fell ill on Friday, but with the virus tearing through the Fraser Coast community it was only a matter of time before Maryborough Hospital was affected.

Queensland Health yesterday confirmed the virus had spread and five staff members were off sick with symptoms of the bug.

“We now have one patient with confirmed norovirus,” Fraser Coast Director of Nursing Anne Schefe said.

“We also currently have five staff on sick leave with vomiting and diarrhoea, but none have confirmed norovirus.”

The virus is commonly brought into hospitals by visitors or patient admissions from the community, and people who suspected they might be ill were urged to stay away from Hervey Bay Hospital last week.

Ms Schefe said yesterday that both hospitals were enforcing strict control measures to reduce the risk of norovirus to staff, patients and visitors.

“Any patients showing norovirus-like symptoms are quickly isolated and visitors restricted,” Ms Schefe said.

“We have moved quickly to contain this virus and are confident that our control measures are having a positive effect.”

Norovirus can spread rapidly wherever there is a concentrated number of people, such as child care centres, aged care facilities, hospitals and schools.

The extremely contagious virus, which causes vomiting, diarrhoea, nausea, stomach cramps, fever and headaches, can be very serious for young children and elderly people.

The illness is spread through person-to-person contact, through airborne droplets, through contaminated food and drink, and from touching surfaces or objects that are contaminated.

“It is important to note that not all gastroenteritis related symptoms, such as vomiting or diarrhoea, is due to norovirus, but we are taking precautions,” Ms Schefe said.

A person with norovirus is infectious while they have symptoms and for up to 48 hours after the symptoms have gone away.

It is important for unwell children to stay home from school or child care, and unwell adults to stay home from work if they are employed in aged care, child care and food-handling industries during this time.

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