THE winter vomiting bug is taking its toll on the local economy after one in 10 people believed to be suffering from the virus was unable to return to work this week.
The bug, known as the norovirus, has been seen across Greater Manchester and wards at Wigan Infirmary were forced to close to visitors before Christmas.
Although other parts of the region have seen more confirmed cases of the bug (Bolton and Tameside) the borough is still said to be badly affected and health chiefs fear many cases go unreported.
They estimate that for every one confirmed case of norovirus reported to a doctor, another 288 go unrecorded.
That means that in the worst-hit parts of Greater Manchester, more than one in 10 people have contracted the bug.
Last month the Astley and Aspull wards were closed to visitors following an outbreak of the bug which can be fatal for vulnerable patients.
Lynda Barkess-Jones, Acting Director of Infection Prevention and Control, said “ Our hospitals are looking after people who are unwell and may have reduced immunity. They are more susceptible to catching Norovirus.”
She added: “Anyone who has been feeling unwell recently with symptoms of diarrhoea, nausea or vomiting, it is advised that they should stay away from our hospitals until they have been free of symptoms for at least 72 hours.
“If you have been in contact with someone who has had symptoms you could also be bringing the virus into one of our hospitals. If visiting, please use the gel stations or hand wash stations available on every ward.”
Symptoms of Norovirus include diarrhoea and vomiting and, just like flu, the virus can be exacerbated by colder weather and can be particularly serious for people who are already ill or who have a long term condition.
The bug is described as being highly contagious and can spread rapidly anywhere that people are gathered, such as schools, offices or hospitals.
Sufferers should recover naturally by ensuring they get plenty of rest and avoid dehydration with lots of non-caffeinated drinks.