Hotel outbreak of winter vomiting bug infects 63 people

The number of norovirus cases tripled last week and outbreaks are increasing, says HPSC

An outbreak of norovirus in a west of Ireland hotel infected 63 people earlier this month, according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC).

With the number of cases of norovirus tripling last week, the HPSC has issued an alert about the virus, which is one of the main causes of gastroenteritis.

The number of notifications has increased to more than 30 a week and there has been a “significant upsurge” in norovirus outbreaks in healthcare facilities, it said.

Among the norovirus outbreaks recorded this month are a nursing home outbreak in the west with 27 cases and another nursing home outbreak in the northeast with 21 cases.

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Last week, there were four outbreaks in which a total of 35 people have fallen ill. So far this year, 1,295 people have fallen ill with norovirus, almost double last year’s tally of 667.

The currently circulating strain of norovirus, often called the winter vomiting bug, is known as GII.4 (Sydney) and has been dominant since 2012.

The HPSC has advised healthcare professionals to have a “high index of suspicion” for norovirus, clean soiled areas immediately and pay strict attention to route hygiene and disinfection.

Infected members of the public are advised to stay off work or school at least 48 hours after the symptoms have passed. They should also avoid visiting anyone in hospital during this time.

The HPSC said rates of flu remain stable this winter but RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) are increasing. There were three flu outbreaks in residential institutions and one in a nursing home.

Some 732 RSV cases were notified last week, up from 615 the previous week. Hospitalisations increased from 285 to 325; almost half were aged under one year.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times