It is not unusual for hospitals to be affected by occasional outbreaks of diarrhea and vomiting (D&V) in both patients and staff. The Trust has taken the precautionary measure of closing to new admissions. In addition to the temporary closure we are escalating our infection control measures to bring this under control and have opened additional beds.

The problem with D&V started yesterday afternoon, Wednesday 2nd May. Birch, Cedar and Aspen Wards along with the Coronary Care Unit are closed to new admissions. Some bays on May and Maple Wards have also been affected but the Wards themselves remain open, as does the rest of the hospital. However to enable us to effectively manage the situation we would ask local people to make full use of other local facilities such as NHSDirect on 0845-46-47; their own GP; and the Walk-in Centres at Ashford, Slough, Walton, Weybridge, and Woking rather than attend the A&E at St. Peter’s. Individuals with life threatening conditions should of course phone 999 for an ambulance.

The infection at St. Peter’s spreads quickly and has affected around 30 patients and 10 members of staff. Dr Angela Shaw, Director of Infection Protection and Control at Ashford and St. Peter’s said: “Although not confirmed as yet, clinically the outbreak is likely to be due to norovirus, the cause of ‘winter vomiting disease’, which despite its name can occur at any time of the year. This is highly infectious, spreading rapidly from person to person, especially when vomiting is occurring. Symptoms of watery diarrhoea and projectile vomiting can start between 12 and 48 hours after being exposed. It usually lasts for about 48 hours and has no residual effects. There is no specific treatment other than ensuring that the person affected has plenty of fluids.

“We are maintaining strict infection control precautions, particularly as concerns hand hygiene, protective clothing where required and environmental cleaning. However the infection can be spread through the air so control over it is limited. Affected patients are being nursed in the same bays and movement between wards restricted. Some patients are being diverted to other hospitals to prevent them being exposed to the virus.”

Dr Shaw continued: “As norovirus usually starts to spread after it is brought into a hospital from the community, it is vital that nobody visits the hospital who has any diarrhoea and / or vomiting, and if they have had these symptoms that they should have been free of them for at least 72 hours.

“To protect both patients and visitors only the minimum numbers of visitors (i.e. two people - close relatives or friends) should visit patients on the medical wards while this outbreak continues. Because of the way it is spread all visitors may be at risk and should bear this in mind if they decide to visit. All visitors should report to the nurse in charge on arrival and follow advice on hand hygiene. Hands should be washed thoroughly before and after visiting the patient. No visitor should sit on a bed and because flowers are not allowed anyway, a good present for a patient is the purchase of a bedside TV card.

“We would be grateful for the cooperation of the public while this infection is around.”