HEALTH chiefs have confirmed almost 250 cases of the winter vomiting bug have hit Wearside.
Several wards at Sunderland Royal Hospital have been affected by the highly contagious norovirus, which causes sickness and diarrhoea.
In the second half of this year the North East alone has reported 87 outbreaks – the highest of all regions in the UK. In Sunderland, the past 12 weeks have seen 13 outbreaks.
The norovirus bug is largely brought into hospitals by patients admitted with the infection, visitors and, less commonly, members of staff.
A Sunderland Royal Hospital spokesman said: “Everyone in Sunderland’s Royal Hospital that is involved in the care of patients is very aware of the need for exemplary hand hygiene, and the importance of this cannot be stressed highly enough to relatives and visitors.
“Visiting should only be undertaken when essential. Families and friends should not visit at all if they have any suspicion that they may be harbouring any infection.
“During this period we would also urge that children under the age of 12 do not visit the hospital.”
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) said there has been a 72 per cent increase in cases from 2011 with more than 750,000 people affected so far in 2012.
John Harris, an expert in norovirus at the HPA, said: “Norovirus is very contagious so we would urge anyone who thinks they may be unwell with norovirus to stay at home and stay away from hospitals and care homes.
“The infection is short-lived, although it is very unpleasant while you are unwell. Most people will not need to go to see their doctor and will recover in a couple of days.”
Poor hygiene after using the toilet is the main cause for the spread of norovirus, and symptoms usually start to occur one to days after a person becomes infected.
The first indication that someone may have norovirus is a sick feeling followed by forceful vomiting and watery diarrhoea.
Other symptoms include a raised temperature, headaches, stomach cramps and aching limbs.
Dehydration is the main risk of the bug ,so it is advisable to drink plenty of fluids.
While there is no medication for norovirus, most people make a full recovery within a couple of days.