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Queensland Hospitals Reeling Under Norovirus Attack

Three hospitals in Queensland, Australia are battling outbreaks of the highly infectious norovirus, which has struck down almost 150 patients and staff .

Queensland Health announced that the Royal Brisbane and Woman's (RBWH), Gold Coast and Cairns Base hospitals had been affected by the virus, which causes vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramps, fever and headaches.

It is estimated that about 70 staff and patients have fallen ill at the RBWH over the past 10 days, while another 50 have been affected at the Gold Coast Hospital in the past few weeks. The problem has forced the hospitals to reduce activity in a number of wards in a bid to curtail the spread of the virus. In the Cairns Base Hospital, another 25 patients and staff caught the virus over three days last week.

Dr Tony Allworth, RBWH's Infectious Diseases director, said the hospital had diverted admissions away from contagious areas to shield patients, visitors and staff from the virus. "Norovirus is common in the community during winter months," Allworth said. "This virus is being spread around in the general community at the moment, so it is not unique to the RBWH. "We have additional measures in place, such as restricting admissions to affected areas and reducing unnecessary access to the wards, to reduce the chances of it spreading." "We apologize for any inconvenience", he added.

Queensland Health Director of Infection Services, Dr Michael Whitby, said outbreaks usually emerged where a concentrated number of people existed, such as at childcare centers, schools and aged-care facilities.

The virus is highly contagious and spreads easily from person to person, through inhaling droplets in the air, touching contaminated surfaces, or by eating or drinking something contaminated. "A person with norovirus is infectious while they have symptoms and for at least 72 hours after the symptoms have gone," says Dr Whitby. "Unfortunately, ther e is no antiviral medication or preventative vaccine that works against norovirus."

However, he urges people to thoroughly wash their hands after using the toilet or changing nappies and before handling or eating food to avert the chance of infection.


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