Helping Beat Risk Of Winter Vomiting Bug

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Wales' Chief Medical Officer launched a nationwide Welsh Assembly Government stomach bug awareness campaign yesterday in a bid to prevent people in Wales falling victim this winter.

Dr Tony Jewell visited Ysgol Gymraeg Evan James in Pontypridd to remind pupils and teachers of the risk of Norovirus and the importance of good hand hygiene in washing their hands of the virus.

Norovirus, also known as 'winter vomiting disease', is a highly infectious stomach bug, affecting between 600,000 and one million people in the UK every year. It spreads in environments where large numbers of people congregate, and can be caught through contact with an infected person, by touching contaminated surfaces or objects, or through contaminated food and drink.

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The main symptoms are sudden nausea, followed by vomiting and diarrhoea. People who contract it are advised to stay at home and avoid contact with others for at least 48 hours after symptoms have cleared, in order to avoid passing the virus on. Those infected should especially avoid visiting places where there are vulnerable individuals, such as hospitals, care homes and nursing homes.

Through a nationwide leafleting and PR campaign, the Assembly Government aims to highlight prevention and control measures amongst the general public and those working in the catering and healthcare sectors.

Dr Jewell said: One of the most effective ways of preventing the spread of Norovirus – as well as a range of other infections - is to wash your hands properly after going to the toilet and making sure they are completely dry. Handwashing is very often overlooked, but people do not realise how much harm they are doing, not only to themselves but also to those around them. The same applies to hygienic food preparation. People in a rush might not wash their hands before handling food, or wash and cook it thoroughly. Neither might they properly clean the area where they are cooking or the utensils they are using. If we all washed our hands properly and took particular care when preparing food, we would greatly reduce the risk of Norovirus spreading.

At Welsh-medium primary school, Ysgol Gymraeg Evans James, Dr Jewell advised how thorough handwashing can help prevent infection.

Headteacher, Moyra Greaney, said: Dr Jewell's visit to the school today was a very welcome one. Although our children are always being reminded to wash their hands properly after using the toilets, Dr Jewell put the staff's messages into context, by telling the children about the risks of the winter vomiting bug. We all now feel much better informed about the illness, how to avoid it and how to deal with it if it occurs.

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