A WINTER diarrhoea and vomiting bug has forced two care homes and six Worcester hospital wards to close.

Rising cases of norovirus caused the total or partial closure of six wards at Worcestershire Royal Hospital in Worcester yesterday but there are no cases at the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch.

Ward closures mean either some or all bays within one of the six wards are closed to new admissions as hospital bosses battle to contain the highly contagious infection which can be particularly unpleasant and dangerous for elderly and vulnerable patients.

Jonathan Monks, the hospitals and access manager who works for Worcestershire County Council, confirmed two care homes are also effectively locked down – closed to new admissions – in Malvern but declined to confirm which homes they were.

However, further investigations by your Worcester News revealed that the Springs Nursing and Residential Care Home was one of those that had been closed to admissions as a result of the bug.

Conor Whitelaw, regional manager of Bupa Care Services, which runs the home, said: “We have robust plans in place to combat norovirus.

"However, it exists in the local community and we cannot be isolated from it.

"We are asking people not to visit The Springs Nursing Home as a precaution to ensure our residents’ welfare.”

Mr Monks said it was difficult to calculate how many people either had norovirus or incubating it and advised that people who felt unwell should not visit their relatives to reduce the spread of it.

He said: “What we are trying to avoid is people who are already vulnerable being infected by their own relatives.”

Hospital bosses urged people with symptoms to stay at home to prevent the spread of infection and reduce pressure on hospital beds.

Dr Charles Ashton, medical director for Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “An increased incidence of patients coming into hospital with norovirus is putting extra pressure on bed availability.

"While stringent infection prevention and control procedures are being implemented in all affected ward areas, it is very difficult to contain the spread of this extremely contagious illness.”

Norovirus - the facts

• Norovirus is the most common stomach bug in the UK, affecting people of all ages.

• It is highly contagious – spread by poor hand washing, contaminated food or drink or by touching contaminated surfaces or objects – and causes vomiting and diarrhoea.

• The Health Protection Agency reports seven outbreaks in the county between January 30 and February 5.

• Norovirus also affects people in their own homes, as well as hospitals and care homes.

• There is no specific treatment. Sufferers should drink plenty of fluids, wash hands after using the toilet and avoid food preparation until 48 hours after symptoms have subsided.

• Telephone your GP or NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 for advice.