VISITORS are banned from all Worcestershire hospitals following an outbreak of the winter diarrhoea and vomiting bug.

All visitors are being asked to avoid going to Worcestershire Royal Hospital, the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch and Kidderminster Hospital, NHS leaders confirmed today.

Helen Blanchard, chief nursing officer for Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust said: “We understand people want to visit relatives in hospital but would like to remind visitors not to attend if they have any symptoms of norovirus infection such as diarrhoea and/or vomiting you are reminded to stay at home.

“There are increasing numbers of cases of diarrhoea and vomiting in the community, which is expected at this time of year. It can be very difficult to contain the spread of this extremely contagious illness but restricting visitors will have a significant impact and help prevent the spread of this illness which is unpleasant for most people but which can be a greater risk for people who are already ill.”

Those with symptoms of norovirus infection such as diarrhoea and/or vomiting you are reminded to stay at home and to call a GP or NHS Direct rather than risking transmitting the infection further.

There is no specific treatment for norovirus apart from letting the illness run its course. Drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, washing hands thoroughly after using the toilet and avoiding food preparation for others until 48 hours after symptoms have subsided can help.

The latest figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) show there have been 3,538 laboratory confirmed cases of norovirus this season (from week 27 to week 50 2012).

The latest figures are 83 percent higher than the number of cases reported at this point last year when there were 1,934 cases.

During the two weeks up to December 23 there were 70 hospital outbreaks reported, compared to 61 in the previous fortnight, bringing the total of outbreaks for the season to 538.

The distribution of norovirus cases across the season varies significantly from year to year, but the number of cases has risen earlier than expected this year. It has not yet been determined why this has been the case, but it is a trend that has been seen across Europe and other parts of the world.