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Movement in and out of Palmerston North Hospital’s Ward 24 has been restricted following an outbreak of norovirus (gastroenteritis).

As of Tuesday, 13 July, admissions to the ward are closed, and all transfers to other wards, or discharges to residential care facilities have been stopped until further notice. Patients are still able to be discharged home.

Visitors to Ward 24 are restricted to one designated support person per patient, unless there are exceptional circumstances. These would need to be discussed with a Charge Nurse.

Visitors are required to use hand sanitiser before entering and exiting the ward, and also when leaving patients after contact.

All the usual precautionary measures are being taken in order to reduce the chance of the outbreak spreading further. Patients will be managed in contact isolation, with staff wearing gowns and gloves for patient contact.

There was no indication the virus had spread to other parts of the hospital, and the Infection, Prevention and Control team was working to ensure the virus remained contained.

MidCentral DHB Chief Medical Officer Dr Kelvin Billinghurst said the rapid increase of cases in Ward 24 was indicative of the virus’s highly infectious nature.

“People with norovirus are infectious for at least three days after the symptoms stop and on some occasions for up to two weeks,” Dr Billinghurst said.

“Gastro can be spread in many ways, such as consuming contaminated food or drinks, touching contaminated surfaces, through the air and by direct contact with an infected person. The virus can also survive on contaminated surfaces even after cleaning with some disinfectants.”

Common symptoms of gastro are vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach pains. Most people recover quickly, but it can be serious in some people, particularly if they become dehydrated. Children, elderly and people with weak immune systems are more likely to suffer serious illness.

To minimise spread of gastro:

  • If you, or somebody you are caring for, is extremely unwell and you feel you need to take them to the doctor, call Healthline 0800 611 116 for medical advice. If you are advised to go to the doctor or hospital ring ahead to advise them.
  • Wash and dry hands regularly when caring for sick people, before preparing food and after using the toilet.
  • Anyone with symptoms of gastro should avoid contact with others. It is important they do not visit rest homes, hospitals or attend school or early child education centres until 48 hours after symptoms have stopped.

Personal hygiene is the best way to minimise the spread of gastro. Hand washing for 20 seconds with soap and warm water, followed by effective drying for 20 seconds is required.

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