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Hospital visitors urged to stay away if they have been exposed to flu or stomach bugs

Monday 22nd January 2018

The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is calling on visitors to stay away from its hospitals if they have recently come into contact people with influenza or stomach bugs after experiencing an increase in illnesses among patients. Several wards at the two biggest hospitals - St James’s Hospital and Leeds General Infirmary - have been affected by the illnesses which spread easily from patient to patient and can be life-threatening to more vulnerable patients who struggle to fight off illness.

The Trust’s Medical Director Dr Yvette Oade said, “People who are admitted to hospital are already more vulnerable to infections and viruses so it is important that we do as much as possible to reduce their risk of further illness. I would advise visitors to stay away from the hospitals if they have had any symptoms of stomach bugs or flu in the last four days or if they have been around family or friends who have been poorly in that time.”

A wide range of initiatives have already been implemented by the hospitals in an effort to manage influenza and reduce the spread among patients and staff:

  • Offering vaccination to all staff: over 80% of frontline staff have now had their vaccine. The Trust is in the top 20% of best performing hospital trusts in England for its staff flu vaccination campaign.
  • Offering influenza vaccination to patients in “at risk” groups that have been admitted to hospital but who have not already had their annual flu jab.
  • Following a strict protocol for infection prevention and control including:
    • the use of personal protective equipment (masks, aprons, gloves, eyewear);
    • handwashing with soap and hot water;
    • isolating bays or wards where all patients are affected;
    • allocating affected patients to side rooms where possible;
    • deep cleaning clinical areas to rid all surfaces of viruses; and
    • closely monitoring the spread of infection to identify and address the cause of outbreaks among patients or staff.

Dr Oade said, “In some cases, particularly with influenza, we are able to look back and find out how the patient caught the virus. We have identified that in some cases the virus has been transmitted by visitors to the hospitals.

“Not everyone will have the symptoms and so may unknowingly pass on viruses to poorly relatives in the hospital. We are therefore asking anyone who has been in close contact with someone with flu or Norovirus to avoid visiting relatives in hospital.” 

Last year, one ward at St James’s Hospital experienced a flu outbreak which severely impacted on the staff and patients. Speaking at the time, a Clinical Support Worker who was struck down by flu said, “When our patients have flu, we often try to jolly them along. We say ‘it’s not so bad’, or ‘you’ll soon get over it’, but when I caught flu I realised it’s not like that at all. It was horrendous. I couldn’t move and had to stay in bed. I couldn’t eat or drink. The headaches were horrific. I can honestly say I felt like I was going to die.

“It affected my family too. I’m a single mum to three sons and they were really worried about me. I had to rely on them for everything - cleaning, shopping, cooking meals…They had to force me to eat and drink. I didn’t want to. I just wanted to be left alone. I’ve had the flu jab this year - with no side effects. Having had the flu I can fully understand what our patients feel like when they have it. It’s not just a sniffle - it’s serious.”