ALONG with the arrival of winter comes the risk of potentially fatal viruses such as flu and vomiting bug norovirus.
But bosses at Warwick Hospital feel they are more prepared than ever to tackle the bugs.
Observer reporter Laura Kearns went to see some of the changes which have been made to curb the deadly viruses.
In recent years Warwick Hospital has been hit by repeated outbreaks of flu and norovirus which have lead to ward closures and a clampdown on visiting.
To try and prevent the spread of infection the hospital has taken a number of preventative measures – even erecting walls around some beds to separate vulnerable patients.
The changes signal the hospital’s efforts to combat winter pressures – which annually put added stress on staff and increase infection risk to patients.
One of the changes is the introduction of isolation ‘pods’, which are designed to separate vulnerable or contagious patients. They are a solution to the lack of space in the building, which meant extra side rooms could not be built.
Hospital chiefs had 11 of the pods constructed. Each one fits in a bay and consists of a wall and door instead of the traditional curtain.
Extra sinks have also been installed around the hospital, including one outside each ward.
Infection control matron Christine Georgeu hopes the changes will reduce the spread of infection.
She told the Observer: “We seem to have good years and bad years, and I hope this year will be better. Last year was particularly bad for us.
“The bugs tend to spread more on the wards as the staff, patients and visitors are all together indoors. The virus can last for a long time on surfaces which makes it a big risk.”
Christine believes those visiting the hospital need to play their part in stopping the spread of winter bugs.
She said: “Everyone needs to own the responsibility. Norovirus and flu are illnesses you should stay at home with and do not come to the hospital if you have recently had either virus.
“Most people can get over these illnesses within 48 hours, but if a seriously ill patient contracts it they could die.
“You do not know you have either virus for a while after contracting them and you can feel fine for days before you start to see symptoms. This is why hand washing is so important. Hand gel doesn’t always kill the bacteria so ideally people should wash and dry their hands and then use the gel.”
Norovirus affects thousands of people each year, young and old, and causes diarrhoea and vomiting. Those suffering from the virus are advised to rest and stay hydrated.
People with flu should rest and take over the counter pharmacy treatments.
If they are concerned they should call their GP or ring 111 to speak to NHS Direct.
Visit www.nhs.uk to find out more.