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Bug Reduces Services At Wellington Hospital

20 May 2004

Stomach Bug Reduces Services At Wellington Hospital & Kenepuru Community Hospital

A virus which has been causing illness in the community over recent weeks has now reached Wellington and Kenepuru hospitals.

Norovirus is a mild illness, which is characterised by vomiting and diarrhoea, Dr Tim Blackmore, infectious diseases physician at Wellington Hospital said today.

“In layman’s terms it’s an unpleasant tummy bug.”

“For most people it will be a 24 hour bug, however it can be quite debilitating for the very old, the very young and those with compromised immune systems. The problem is that it spreads very easily,” Dr Blackmore says.

John Peters, Interim Chief Operating Officer for C&C DHB says “We have put a number of measures in place in our hospitals, including stepped up infection control procedures, isolating patients with the illness, and sending home staff who show any signs of infection.” “As three quarters of the cases in our facilities have been at Kenepuru Community Hospital we are sending patients who require admission, and who also have vomiting or diarrhoea there. We are directing other new admissions to Wellington Hospital. This is a precautionary measure, to help us further contain the disease and maintain essential services. “We have also postponed non-urgent surgery, although day surgery is going ahead as we assess the risk of infection for those patients to be very low. We are also letting rest homes, other hospitals and GPs know, to assist them in taking precautionary measures.

“In number terms, we’ve had around 40 cases of mild illness among hospital patients and staff. We have cancelled 17 non-urgent surgeries today. This is regrettable, and we apologise for the inconvenience, however it is the safest course to steer under the circumstances,” John Peters says.

Norovirus is a reasonably common illness which typically affects places where large numbers of people are in reasonably close contact, such as schools, rest homes or cruise ships. It surfaces in the greater Wellington region most winters.

Dr Margot McLean, the Medical Officer of Health for Regional Public Health, says people with symptoms of gastroenteritis are advised to stay at home and drink plenty of fluids. Antibiotics are not effective, and the illness gets better by itself in between one and three days.

Young children and the elderly are most at risk of dehydration. People who need to see a doctor because they are concerned should phone the surgery first, advising of their symptoms, Margot McLean says.

ENDS

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