Belfast Telegraph

Norovirus: Five wards at Altnagelvin hospital and Slieve Russell hotel closed after 'worst outbreak in 30 years'

A senior doctor has described the norovirus outbreak at one of Northern Ireland's main hospitals as the worst in his near 30 years in medicine.

Five wards at Altnagelvin hospital in Northern Ireland have been closed due to an outbreak the norovirus.

Movement has been restricted between four wards at the Londonderry hospital and admissions suspended.

Western Health Trust Director Dermot Hughes said the outbreak was the worst in his 27 years.

"It is concerning," he told the BBC.

"It relates to the fact there are a high number of incidents in the community. It is a self-limiting illness. It will not cause harm to most people.

"But for the vulnerable patients in the hospital, it is something we want to prevent at all costs."

The Western Trust said infection control measures have been put in place to stop the virus spreading.

It said: "To protect our patients and staff, people should not come to the hospital if they are feeling unwell, have any symptoms of norovirus or someone at home does.

"Those who decide to visit loved ones in the hospital are asked to thoroughly wash their hands before and after visiting.

"Visitors should visit only one patient whilst at the hospital, refrain from sitting on hospital beds and not move from ward to ward when visiting."

The Slieve Russell Hotel closed on Monday due to an increased incidence of infection among residents and staff at hotel.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) and hotel management said the action was necessary to safeguard public health.

"HSE Public Health and Environmental Health staff met with hotel management on 19 December and agreed that additional measures including a full deep-clean of all surfaces and furnishings in the hotel would be required.

"In order to achieve this, the hotel has closed.

"It will re-open as soon as all possible environmental sources of the virus have been disinfected."

SDLP health spokesperson and Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan expressed his concern.

He said: "This outbreak will certainly cause alarm among the public but the Western Trust has acted quickly and decisively to get this situation under control.

"Understandably people suffering from the virus may have felt the need to seek medical help and it is believed that this is what has caused the spread in Altnagelvin. However, the disease is not dangerous to most people and by visiting medical centres they are putting older people and those already being treated for different conditions at risk of infection.

"To prevent the spread of the virus, it is vital that people familiarise themselves with the symptoms. If anyone is displaying signs of the norovirus they should stay clear of medical centres unless they require serious medical attention."

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