King’s Lynn hospital launches winter bug unit

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn has set up a specialist ward to tackle the so-called winter vomiting bug.

Wards were closed and visitings suspended because of norovirus outbreaks last winter.

Until now, those suffering from the bug have remained on general wards with other patients.

Now they will be transferred to an area of Stanhoe Ward, which has been reserved for sufferers.

Val Newton, the hospital's associate chief nurse, said: 'Last winter when we had patients with norovirus, it had an enormous impact on how we were able to manage our capacity throughout the trust.

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'Patients on other wards who are found to have norovirus will be transferred to Stanhoe if it is considered appropriate.

'Our view is that this will help to reduce the spread of norovirus and allow patients to receive specialist infection control nursing.'

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QEH staff have been given extra training on how to cope with norovirus.

Non-urgent operations and visits were cancelled at the height of last winter's outbreak.

At one point, six wards at the hospital were closed because of the disease, which is also common in closed environments like boarding schools and cruise ships.

Norovirus, which is endemic in the wider community, has a 48hr incubation period.

That means a patient could be admitted to hospital without showing symptoms of the disease but then go down with it.

Until now, the patients would be isolated and the beds around them closed until they had been steam cleaned.

Visits are stopped as soon as staff believe the virus is spreading inside the hospital.

Children, who considered to be more vulnerable to the disease than adults, are discouraged from visiting during outbreaks.

Hospital staff can catch the infection just as easily as patients and visitors.

Hospital chief executive Nerissa Vaughan got to experience norovirus at first hand after contracting it earlier this year.

'The disease itself is horrible and you feel like death,' Ms Vaughan said afterwards.

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