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Here’s what to do if you have Norovirus or Flu.

South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SCAS) is urging patients in Oxfordshire who think they may have Norovirus (the winter vomiting bug), or flu to contact their local pharmacy, or to telephone 111 for advice on self care.

Patients living in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire or Hampshire who think they may have Norovirus (the winter vomiting bug) should contact their local pharmacy, or telephone NHS Direct on 0845 4647

Norovirus is highly infectious. It is vital that anyone who is feeling unwell with gastrointestinal symptoms, vomiting and or diarrhoea, should NOT dial 999 (unless they are suffering a life threatening medical emergency), visit hospitals or their GP because this increases the risk of spreading the infection to patients and vital NHS staff. However, if symptoms persist for more than three or four days, or those affected already have a serious illness, then it is advised that medical attention is sought, through contacting your GP

Phil Convery, SCAS Infection Control Lead, said:

'Almost 900,000 people in England have been infected with Norovirus this winter - almost twice as many as were infected by mid-December last year. This winter is the worst start to the Norovirus season on record with more than 5,000 NHS workers reportedly calling in sick every day with the bug.

'Winter is traditionally the busiest time for your ambulance service. As such, we are urging patients with flu or Norovirus NOT to call 999 (unless they are suffering a life-threatening medical emergency) so that valuable resources remain available to respond to genuinely life threatening medical emergencies over the Christmas and New Year period.

Particular attention to good hygiene measures should be observed during outbreaks of Norovirus. It is very important to wash your hands with soap and water particularly after contact with someone who is ill and after using the toilet, especially if you are suffering from symptoms.

Thorough cleaning of hard surfaces with detergent followed by disinfection with a bleach solution, paying particular attention to the toilet and toilet area and cleaning up vomit and the surrounding area quickly will help to reduce environmental contamination. This can reduce the risk of infection in others coming into contact with these surfaces later on. Care must be taken when using bleach by following the manufacturer's instructions carefully to avoid injury when using such chemicals. Soft furnishings and materials should be washed following the manufacturer's instructions.

Phil Convery continued:

'If you are otherwise fit and healthy, there is usually no need to see a doctor if you have flu-like symptoms. The best remedy is to rest at home, keep warm and drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. You can take paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower a high temperature and relieve aches.'

You should see a doctor if you have flu-like symptoms and you:

•·         are 65 or over

•·         are pregnant

•·         have a long-term medical condition such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, kidney or neurological disease

•·         have a weakened immune system

This is because flu can be more serious for you, and your doctor may want to prescribe antiviral medication.

You can stop yourself catching flu in the first place or spreading it to others by being careful with your hygiene. 

Always wash your hands regularly with soap and water and:

•·         regularly clean surfaces such as your keyboard, telephone and door handles to get rid of germs

•·         use tissues to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze

•·         put used tissues in a bin as soon as possible.

Published 21 December 2012

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