AN OUTBREAK of a winter vomiting bug has closed York Hospital two wards to new admissions.

Health bosses announced yesterday that Ward 11 and Ward 37 had been affected by norovirus, resulting in a total of 67 beds being closed to new admissions.

Libby McManus, chief nurse, said: “We are specifically asking people who have been unwell not to visit the hospital until they have been free of symptoms for 48 hours.

“This is really important because the virus is highly infectious. The virus is easily spread by contact with an infected person, especially through their hands, although the risk is reduced over time.

“If you are visiting someone in hospital we ask that you follow guidance, which includes always washing your hands before and after visiting and use the hand sanitiser gel. This is to keep the virus contained and to help visitors to keep themselves safe as well as their friends or relatives.

“We have clear practice standards for all staff to follow in these circumstances, and this includes being strict about visiting when necessary to protect both patients and visitors.

“We will take tough action and suspend all visiting to individual affected areas to stop the spread of this unpleasant and distressing virus.”

Visitors can call the hospital before visiting to find out if a particular ward is closed, and up-to-date information about closures is also available on display screens in the main entrance.

Nationally, norovirus has led to the closure of 45 hospital wards in the last two weeks, health officials said. The closures, which took place between November 12 and Sunday, occur when hospitals attempt to contain the extremely contagious infection.

Thousands of people have been struck down, according to figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA).

Since July, the HPA has confirmed 1,975 cases in England and Wales – a 52 per cent rise on the number of cases last year when it was 1,301 for the same period.

But the figure is likely to be much higher as many people do not report their illness to their GP.