Vomiting bug outbreak across the north west

Dr Neil Black, Consultant Physician in Endocrinology and Diabetes.
Dr Neil Black, Consultant Physician in Endocrinology and Diabetes.

A local consultant has spoken of the challenges facing staff as special measures are introduced to deal with outbreaks of winter vomiting bug at the tail end of a very busy year.

Dr Neil Black said that factors including a consistently high number of patients seeking medical help and staff falling ill has put added pressure on winter services locally.

Wards 2,3 and 31 remained closed to new admissions at Altnagelvin Hospital last night while several others were only partially open, due to the outbreak of norovirus.

A ward at Waterside Hospital in Gransha was also closed, while Brooklands Care Home in Derry has had to close its doors to visitors as well on Wednesday.

Dr Black said that all health services including hospitals and GPs had standard procedures for the expected increase in patients over the winter period, but said that “this is a particularly difficult year”. He added that the norovirus currently impacting many in the north west involved “high transmissibility and very, very fast transmission upon contact”, while other winter bugs can be spread just by being in the vicinity of someone who already was suffering from it.

Dr Black said that despite extensive precautions and forward planning, such illnesses were difficult to control and that a substantial number of staff had been affected.

The Western Trust is currently monitoring all wards closely.

A spokesperson said: “Increased infection control measures have been put in place, such as isolation of symptomatic patients, use of Personal Protective Clothing, increased and enhanced cleaning, and limiting the movement of staff between wards unless absolutely necessary.”

The Trust has advised that while those who are not ill should attend appointments, people should not come to the hospital if they have any symptoms of Norovirus (nausea/vomiting and or diarrhoea) or if someone at home does.

They advised that people should also not come to visit someone unless absolutely necessary, and if they do come, to thoroughly wash their hands, visit only one patient and not to sit on hospital beds.

People have also been urged to use Minor Injuries, GP or GP Out of Hours, and local pharmacies instead of visiting the Emergency Department, unless their condition is serious and urgent.