Over a dozen hospitals across Wales, Scotland, and England have been popping up in the norovirus headlines this week, earning them a collective blog post on what medical facilities do to hold the sneaky viruses at bay. It is certainly a challenge when what you are trying to keep out is invisible, persistent, and sometimes silent, since people can be passing the virus on to others before they even know they have it (and after it seems to be gone). Hospital administrators often have to target human behavior, because people are usually the ones moving the viruses from place to place.
One common option is to ask people who may have norovirus to not visit hospitals. This has been happening this week at the University Hospital Llandough, Alexandra Hospital, Warwick Hospital (but the wards just reopened yesterday), Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, Royal Lancaster Infirmary, and Morriston Hospital and Neath Port Talbot Hospital.
When a highly contagious virus like norovirus makes its way into a hospital, containment is the usual tactic. This can be through closing a ward to new admissions and/or restricting movement around an area. Dumfries Infirmary, Borders General Hospital, Bridport Community Hospital, Walsall Manor Hospital, and Letterkenny General Hospital have recently had wards close to new admissions or wards that are receiving special treatment to try and keep the virus from spreading.
The UK hospitals have been exceptionally attentive in their norovirus prevention efforts and the abundance of outbreaks is a testament to the success of norovirus as a human pathogen. An important point to remember is that we usually only hear about cases of disease, not about the pounds of cure provided by our collective ounces of prevention. We do not read about the outbreak that did not happen because a nurse had a good knowledge of biosecurity, or the person who kept their coworkers healthy because they stayed home when they were sick with the “stomach flu.” We do not always see what our handwashing, food safety, or other healthy practices accomplish, but it does not make them less important.