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North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust - 70 years of the NHS


Home > News > Help reduce the spread of bugs this winter

Help reduce the spread of bugs this winter

Posted on Wednesday 22nd October 2014
Hand hygiene mandatory training

Nicola O’Reilly, Matron for Infection Prevention and Control, completes her mandatory training in hand hygiene

Nurses from North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust are raising awareness this week about how the public can help reduce the spread of bugs this winter.

As part of International Infection Prevention Week 2014, staff from the infection prevention and control teams at West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven and the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle will be on hand at both sites to educate people about norovirus – often known at the ‘winter vomiting virus’ – and other infections and their role in helping prevent their spread.

Norovirus is a very common gastrointestinal virus which causes diarrhoea and vomiting. It is highly infectious and spreads rapidly in hospitals and care homes at any time of the year, however, particularly during the winter.

The Trust is calling on the public to play their part in helping to control the spread of norovirus. Visitors with symptoms of diarrhoea or vomiting are being asked to think twice before coming to see their loved ones in hospital until free from symptoms for at least 48 hours.

Ann Woodburn, Senior Nurse for Infection Prevention and Control at the Trust, said: “Bugs are around at any time of the year, however winter is traditionally the time when instances of norovirus increase in the community. This inevitably means they can spread quickly in hospitals and potentially pose a risk to our patients who may have other serious illnesses.

“Our priority is always to protect our patients and there are things that people can do to limit the spread of winter bugs. This week we are reminding people of the measures that may protect our healthcare services from the worst effects of norovirus infection.”

The Trust’s advice to people visiting hospital is:

  • Do not visit friends or relatives in hospital if you feel unwell
  • If you develop Norovirus i.e. diarrhoea or vomiting, stay away from hospital until you have been free of symptoms for at least 48 hours
  • Wash hands regularly with soap and water – hand wash basins are provided at patients bays
  • Use chairs provided – do not sit on beds
  • Limit visitors to two per patient and avoid bringing very young children who may be vulnerable to infection

Staff from the infection prevention and control teams will be on hand at both hospital sites all week with information and advice for patients, visitors and staff.

Information stands will be in the main restaurant at West Cumberland Hospital and the atrium at the Cumberland Infirmary from 10am to 3pm every day this week, with advice for the public on issues such as hand hygiene, quizzes and a colouring competition for children.

Posters displaying the Trust’s ‘Dr Cleanhands’ Keep Clean Code’ are highly visible on each and every ward and in public areas. They show visitors the part they can play in reducing infection by following simple but effective advice, such as washing hands thoroughly and not sitting on patients’ beds.

Ann Woodburn added: “A lot of hard work from all of our staff means our infection rates have steadily fallen in recent years. We have achieved a significant reduction in our MSSA and MRSA bacteraemia levels and our Clostridium difficile rates for 2013/14 were below national average, but there is always more we can do with the help of our patients and visitors. We hope that this week will help us raise awareness of issues such as the importance of good hand hygiene, and show that everyone can do their bit to keep infection to a minimum.”

Washing hands thoroughly with soap and water is the single most important thing people can do to help to reduce the spread of infections such as norovirus. It is especially important that people wash their hands with soap and water thoroughly after contact with someone who is suffering from winter vomiting virus. People who are ill themselves and suffering from sickness and diarrhoea should also wash their hands regularly and thoroughly. 

Hand washing should be always be done as a matter of routine:
• Before eating or handling food
• After using the toilet
• After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
• After touching animals or animal waste
• After handling rubbish
• After changing a nappy
• Before and after touching an unwell or injured person
• Before and after visiting a care home or hospital ward