Cases of norovirus should initially be managed in single rooms and bays in a bid to prevent whole hospital wards being closed, new guidelines recommend.
This would allow a flexible response to an outbreak, with small wards able to be cleaned and reopened quickly, the guidelines for the management of norovirus outbreaks in acute and community health and social care settings said.
Affected bays should be closed to both admissions and transfers, and all doors to side rooms and bays should also be shut.
Signs should inform visitors that the ward is closed, with only staff and essential social visitors allowed into the affected area, with a deep clean arranged as soon as possible.
All healthcare staff should be informed of the outbreak and how the virus is transmitted; they should work in either affected or non-affected areas but not both; and they should go off duty at the first sign of symptoms
In the event that the outbreak cannot be contained in a single room or bay, the outbreak control team can consider ward closures, the guidelines said.
For Nightingale-style wards where segregation is not possible because all beds are in the same room, the ward would need to be closed.
The report was a collaboration between the Health Protection Agency (HPA), British Infection Association, Healthcare Infection Society, Infection Prevention Society, NHS Confederation, Sowerby Centre for Health Informatics and the National Concern for Healthcare.
The HPA’s lead consultant medical microbiologist Dr Bharat Patel, who was one of the authors of the report, said: “It will be greatly beneficial to staff to know that there is now the option of trying to manage the outbreak at the single room and bay level, which will reduce the pressure that closing wards has on both staff and patients.”