Visiting restrictions are in operation at University Hospital Galway and at Aras Mhic Dara community nursing unit in Carraroe due to a number of suspected cases of the winter vomiting bug (norovirus ).
A spokesperson for the HSE West appealed to people not to visit these facilities except in “exceptional circumstances”.
All appropriate infection control measures are being taken to deal with this situation, she outlined.
Norovirus, the gastrointestinal equivalent of the common cold, is circulating in the community at present, according to the HSE.
In any year at least one per cent (and in some years up to five per cent ) of the population can expect to be affected by this virus. This equates to an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 cases of the illness per week during a peak period, such as we are experiencing in Ireland at the moment.
”Norovirus is highly infectious, capable of spreading from person-to-person, by food and water and through the air. Exact figures of the numbers of cases currently in the country are not known as many people suffering from it will recover at home without seeking medical attention while others may seek medical treatment from their GP.”
Cases have been recorded in a number of hospitals around the country in recent weeks. Hospitals have infection control measures in place to limit the spread of the virus which can include visitor restrictions.
“Visitors are asked to respect where visitor restrictions are in place and should note that security staff at the hospitals are ensuring the restrictions are adhered to. Visitors are also advised that they must use the alcohol gel supplied as they enter and leave the hospital. While the out patient departments and emergency departments are not affected patients are asked to refrain from attending hospital if they have been affected by vomiting and/or diarrhoea in the last 72 hours.”
Dr Kevin Kelleher, assistant national director of the HSE’s population health department, says the virus is very resilient and can survive for long periods in the environment and on surfaces such as door handles or worktops.
“The principal symptoms are nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Symptoms generally begin suddenly with nausea followed by projectile vomiting. A little later water diarrhoea may develop as well. Handwashing with soap and water (especially after contact with someone who is ill and after using the toilet ) is extremely important, particularly if you are suffering from symptoms.”