Norovirus is in the news a lot and not especially noteworthy here at BFJ but the fact that the DailyExpress is reporting a "Black Alert" at some hospitals and a general "stressing" of the system is noteworthy for me.
The disease is usually self-limiting, and characterized by nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. General lethargy, weakness, muscle aches, headache, and low-grade fever may occur. Symptoms may persist for several days and may become life-threatening in the young, the elderly, and the immune-compromised if dehydration is ignored or not treated.
Monday December 3,2007
A VIOLENT stomach bug is sweeping the country and pushing hospitals to breaking point.
Some have already turned away patients because they have no beds available.
Last night health campaigners warned of a "meltdown" in hospitals and "unnecessary deaths" this Christmas.
In the past week, the bug has prompted several hospital trusts to issue Black Alerts – the highest state of emergency for the NHS.
The sudden outbreaks of the bug, norovirus, has seen stretched hospital staff forced to keep patients waiting in ambulances outside casualty departments while they try to find beds for them.
At other hospitals, wards have had to be closed to new admissions as the bug takes a hold on existing patients – further exacerbating the bed shortage.
The depth of the crisis, which began to worsen about 10 days ago, has been highlighted by a series of leaked memos from hospital managers.
Norovirus led to the closure of wards at 10 hospitals across the country last week, prompting a raft of Black Alerts, with trusts warning of worse to come as the winter months take hold.
Hospitals in Aberdeen, Bath, Bury St Edmunds, Bradford, Chichester and Worthing have already been forced to turn away patients because of the crisis.
And half of Norfolk's entire ambulance fleet recently became stuck in a queue at a flagship hospital after it was found to be "full" and could not admit more patients.
Last night a spokesman for the national Save Our NHS campaign said: "We are getting reports of hospitals beginning to fill across the country.
"We know that some hospitals are managing the problem by turning away patients or making them wait in ambulances until they have a bed.
"Cutbacks in beds have been causing problems and they are bound to be exacerbated by extra pressures in the winter."
On the front line, paramedic Tom Reynolds, based in east London, said: "The next few months are going to be a shambles.
"People forget staff also suffer with sickness. Everyone is so exhausted. We can't keep up with what we are being asked to do."
Accident and Emergency registrar Dr Nick Edwards said: "The NHS is failing to cope with a predictable winter problem. Just imagine what would happen if we face an emergency like bird flu.
"We would need to invent a colour more serious than just black alert."
Geoff Martin, of the patient pressure group Health Emergency, warned that the crisis could lead to unnecessary deaths.
"We are staring down the barrel at the prospect of the worst NHS crisis for many years," he said.
"Our fears of a meltdown as the winter pressures build appear to be coming true as the norovirus gets a grip on our wards."
But last night the Government tried to play down the beds crisis.
Health Minister Ben Bradshaw said: "Winter crises used to bedevil the NHS.
"Thanks to record investment under Labour and better organisation we've not had a major winter crisis for years.
"However, we are not complacent and constantly update contingency plans."
The piece from the DailyExpress has hints of "political" spinning however, I am well aware of the limitations our modern health care systems have been placed under irrespective of political party in power. It is that "limitation" that drives a great deal of the concerns the "Flu Obsessed" have when thinking about a sever pandemic.
Perhaps it is worth pausing a moment and considering what even a 30% clinical attack rate (CAR) during an influenza pandemic will do to our respective health care systems in light of this Norovirus outbreak.