Hospitals on watch for norovirus

More suspected norovirus cases have appeared at Dunstan Hospital, Clyde, but no new cases of an antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria, which showed up earlier this month at Dunedin Hospital, have turned up in tests results so far.

Special infection control measures remain in place at both hospitals.

In Clyde, two more staff and one patient are thought to have contracted norovirus.

On Tuesday, nine patients and 12 staff with the virus were experiencing symptoms including vomiting, diarrhoea, nausea, and abdominal cramps.

Nursing services manager Debi Lawry said an elderly patient was admitted to the ward housing affected patients yesterday, which remains closed to all visitors.

The two additional staff who were also experiencing symptoms will be off work until at least 48 hours after their sickness has cleared.

Ms Lawry said the hospital had hoped to relax its outbreak control measures yesterday after no-one appeared to have contracted the virus on Wednesday.

Despite the suspected norovirus being highly contagious, she said it had a short life and generally people affected by it cleared of their symptoms within one or two days.

Tests of the virus are being studied to confirm whether it is norovirus.

Any necessary admissions to the hospital are being dealt with in a specially cordoned off area and staff are wearing gowns, gloves, and masks.

Ms Lawry said with a bit of luck the virus outbreak had reached its peak and control measures could be reviewed over the weekend.

"We hope that no-one else comes in with symptoms because each time that happens it puts us back into a position where we have to wait out another 24 hours," she said.

In Dunedin Hospital no further cases of the antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria which has stopped new patients being admitted to Ward 8B showed up in test results received yesterday, but a third of the results are yet to come.

Earlier this month, a Dunedin man transferred from the ward to a rest-home tested positive for methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Further tests showed up another patient and three nurses.

None of these people have symptoms.

The patient is being kept in isolation and the three nurses have been transferred to duties which do not involve patient contact while they receive treatment to clear them of MRSA.

Dunedin Hospital Infection Prevention and Control charge nurse manager Jo Stodart said more than 150 staff and patients associated with the ward had been tested.

It took five days to get a result back.

The ward remained closed to new admissions.

Visitors are still allowed to visit patients in Ward 8B but are being asked to take extra hygiene precautions.

Hand-washing stations with anti-microbial hand gels have been placed at the entrance to the ward for both visitors and staff to use.

Mrs Stodart said the decision to close the ward to new admissions was under constant review.

There were 11 patients in the internal medicine ward and those who would have been admitted there were going to other wards.


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