Hospital bosses in South Tyneside are urging people to stay away after the winter vomiting bug laid low NHS staff and patients.
Eighteen patients and 15 members of staff have contracted the Norovirus at South Tyneside District Hospital in Harton Lane, South Shields.
The illness which causes vomiting and diarrhoea led to a ward being temporarily sealed off to stop spread of the virus – but it has now been reopened.
Medical chiefs are now urging the visitors who have had the bug - which is common in the general community - to stay away unless they have been symptom free for at least 48 hours.
South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust’s medical director, Dr Shaz Wahid, said: “Noroviruses cause a very unpleasant but, generally, short-lived illness from which people will usually recover without treatment.
“The main symptom is vomiting, sometimes accompanied by diarrhoea. Some people may have a raised temperature and experience headaches and aching limbs.
We are appealing to people to stay at home.Dr Shaz Wahid
“Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment and the illness just has to run its course. Thankfully, most people will make a full recovery within one to two days.”
He added: “We are appealing to patients’ relatives and all visitors who have had the bug to stay at home and not come to our site until they have been free of symptoms for 48 hours to avoid spreading it in the hospital.”
It is estimated that Norovirus affects between 600,000 and one million people in the United Kingdom every year.
General advice for patients who think they have Norovirus includes staying at home and drinking plenty of fluids.
If symptoms persist, people should ask for a telephone consultation with their family doctor.
Alternately they can call NHS 111 for advice.
Norovirus is one of the most common stomach bugs in the UK.
It’s also called the “winter vomiting bug” because it’s more common in winter, although it can be caught at any time of the year.
It can be unpleasant but it usually clears up by itself in a few days.
Symptoms include suddenly feeling sick, vomiting and diarrhoea
Some people also have a slight fever, headaches, painful stomach cramps and aching limbs.
The symptoms appear one to two days after they become infected and typically last for up to two or three days.
Norovirus spreads very easily in public places such as hospitals, nursing homes and schools.
Norovirus can be caught more than once because the virus is always changing, so the body is unable to build up long-term resistance to it.
It is not always possible to avoid getting sick but - washing hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water, particularly after using the toilet and before preparing food - will help prevent it.
Any surfaces or objects that could be contaminated should be wiped bleach-based household cleaner.
Clothing or bedding should be cleaned in a hot wash to ensure the virus is killed.