South West hospitals 'worst hit' by norovirus
Hospitals in the Westcountry say disruption has been kept to a minimum despite the onslaught of a strain of winter vomiting bug which has forced the closure of wards across the region.
According to figures from the Health Protection Agency, the number of cases of the norovirus were particularly high last year. Across the whole of 2012, there were 1,818 norovirus outbreaks in hospitals in England last year, leading to the closure of 1,513 wards. The HPA said hospitals in the South West of England appear to have been the worst hit, with 363 wards closed in the region.
However the agency also said that outbreaks of the virus has started early this winter in November.
At the Royal Cornwall Hospital, a spokeswoman said detection of the highly infectious bug had forced them to close wards five times since November.
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She added: "We began a campaign before the winter to raise awareness among staff and their vigilance and prompt reaction to symptomatic patients has helped to reduce risk of widespread outbreak."
A spokeswoman for the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital said norovirus had been widespread in the local community and the hospital had experienced an increase in related admissions.
Last week, one ward was closed as a result, she said, adding that "significant investment has been placed in managing the winter pressures" at the hospital.
A spokeswoman for Derriford Hospital said they had plans in place to minimise disruption caused by an outbreak of norovirus.
She added: "Since November, like many healthcare organisations, we have experienced some cases of norovirus which have on occasion led us to close some wards to new patients."