TWO wards at York Hospital have closed to visitors and new patients after outbreaks of sickness and diarrhoea.

Ward 23, which caters for elderly patients, has been shut since Sunday with a confirmed case of norovirus, the stomach bug which causes diarrhoea and vomiting.

Ward 39, a stroke rehabilitation unit, closed on Tuesday because of diarrhoea and vomiting.

A spokeswoman for York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said that when a ward was closed, it meant no new patients were admitted to it and there should only be ‘essential’ visits.

She said norovirus was one of the UK’s most common stomach bugs, and was often called the ‘winter vomiting bug’ because it was more common in winter, but people could catch it at any time of the year.

“It is extremely infectious and spreads very easily in public places, such as nursing homes and schools, and it is usually brought into hospital by visitors once it becomes prevalent in the community,” she said.

“Unfortunately this means we experience outbreaks every year and our staff have clear processes to follow in these circumstances to contain the spread of the virus, which includes closing areas to minimise the risk of infection.”

She said closing wards helped to contain the virus but visitors could play a large part by staying away from hospital if they had been unwell with symptoms of diarrhoea and vomiting, and not visiting until they had been free of symptoms for 48 hours.

“We would also urge visitors to think carefully before paying any non-essential visits at this time,” she said. “If you do have to visit we ask that you follow guidance, which includes always washing your hands before and after visiting and use the hand sanitizer gel.

“This is to keep the virus contained and to help visitors to keep themselves safe, as well as their friends or relatives.”