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Political controversy in Gibraltar over the outbreak of Norovirus in local hospital

Thursday, February 2nd 2012 - 21:51 UTC
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St Bernard’s hospital in Gibraltar St Bernard’s hospital in Gibraltar

Political controversy has erupted in Gibraltar following the outbreak of a Norovirus infection in a local hospital. The highly contagious virus which causes vomiting, diarrhoea and dehydration is not unknown to the cruise industry which has been forced to cancel trips and isolate vessels.

According to Gibraltar’s opposition “it understands that the Norovirus infection first affected one of the wards at St Bernard’s Hospital two weeks ago, where measures were put in place to stop its spread”.

However, the virus seems to have spread to two other wards, and now visitors are restricted and all patients entering the wards are being tested, said the GSD.

“The Opposition is surprised that the Minister for Health has not made a public health statement to reassure the general public that the Norovirus is under control at St Bernards’ Hospital, nor explained that measures have been put in place to avoid the further spread of the infection and to protect any vulnerable people from visiting St Bernard’s Hospital,” said a GSD spokesman quoted by the Gibraltar Chronicle.

According to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, the Noroviruses (genus Norovirus, family Caliciviridae) are a group of related, single-stranded RNA, non-enveloped viruses that cause acute gastroenteritis in humans. The most common symptoms of acute gastroenteritis are diarrhoea, vomiting, and stomach pain. Norovirus is the official genus name for the group of viruses previously described as “Norwalk-like viruses” (NLV).

Noroviruses spread from person to person, through contaminated food or water, and by touching contaminated surfaces. Norovirus is recognized as the leading cause of food-borne-disease outbreaks in the United States. The virus can spread quickly from person to person in crowded, closed places like long-term care facilities, daycare centers, schools, hotels, and cruise ships. Noroviruses can also be a major cause of gastroenteritis in restaurants and catered-meal settings if contaminated food is served

There is no vaccine to prevent norovirus infection. Also, there is no drug to treat people who get sick from the virus. Antibiotics will not help with norovirus illness since antibiotics fight bacteria, not viruses.

Some simple practices are recommended beginning with proper hand hygiene, carefully with soap and water, especially after using the toilet and changing diapers and always before eating or preparing food. If soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. These alcohol-based products can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, but they are not a substitute for washing with soap and water.

Categories: Politics, International.

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