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Kent comment: Influenza expert on the latest hospital Norovirus outbreak

The recent outbreak of Norovirus at Maidstone Hospital - leading to the closure of wards - has once again focused attention on the havoc seasonal viral infections can cause. Dr Jeremy Rossman, an expert at the University of Kent on influenza, says although there is no cure, hospitals that act quickly can minimize their impact.

Dr Rossman commented: ‘The recent outbreak of Norovirus at Maidstone Hospital has led to the closure of wards and prompted the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust to advise family and friends to avoid visiting the hospital. This outbreak is similar to the concurrent closures at the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate.

‘Norovirus causes seasonal cases of gastroenteritis throughout the UK and is commonly known as the 'winter vomiting disease'. Norovirus is very easily spread through direct contact, either with infected people or with contaminated surfaces. Outbreaks in NHS hospitals do sporadically occur and are facilitated by the ease of viral spread.

‘There are two main concerns in a hospital outbreak that may lead to the closure of wards. First is that due to the large number of people at and visiting, the hospital may serve as a focal point facilitating further viral spread. Second, and perhaps more concerning, is that current immunocompromised hospital patients could be at a greater risk for severe disease should they become infected.

‘There is no cure for Norovirus, however, the disease is short-lived and by minimizing the contact with current patients the Maidstone outbreak will hopefully come to a quick end.’

Dr Jeremy Rossman is Lecturer in Virology at the University’s School of Biosciences. His most recent research, published in the Journal of Virology, uncovered a new mechanism for the flu virus to infect cells.


Story published at 9:33am 8 February 2013

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Last Updated: 12/06/2013