SIX nursing homes in the borough and two wards at Wigan Infirmary have been hit by a highly contagious diarrhoea and vomiting virus.
Health chiefs are warning people to stay away from the hospital following the outbreak of norovirus, which can be deadly in some cases.
The fast-spreading bug has put the Royal Albert Edward Infirmary on high alert, and people are being urged to avoid hospitals and GP surgeries if they believe they or any of their family are showing symptoms.
Visitors suffering with symptoms should not visit hospitals, nursing homes or vulnerable relatives until 48 hours after symptoms cease.
This is because they are still at risk of passing on the virus, even though the symptoms have ceased.
Dr Kate Ardern, director of public health for the borough of Wigan, said: “We know that these viruses are already circulating widely in the community.
“For example, we have seen local nursing homes and nurseries affected.
“We are asking that anyone who is considering visiting relatives or friends within hospital, nursing home or residential home not to visit if they have any symptoms of diarrhoea and/or vomiting within the previous 48 hours.
“Should this virus get into a nursing home or a hospital, it can make residents or patients, who are already vulnerable, more seriously ill.
“Norovirus symptoms (diarrhoea and vomiting) can be best treated by staying at home, drinking plenty of fluids and getting some rest.
“Information from the Public Health Department has been sent to all GPs and local pharmacists in order to promote self-treatment where appropriate rather than seek admission to hospital.
Advice on how to treat the illness can be obtained from GPs and local pharmacists.
“Hospital treatment is only necessary for people who have become very dehydrated and require intravenous fluids.
This is unusual, but can happen in young children and older people.”
The local Public Health and Hospital Infection Control team has put additional measures in place to support the existing Infection Control standard precautions.
This has resulted in six nursing homes and two wards at Royal Albert Edward Infirmary being either monitored or new admissions restricted in order to contain the spread of diarrhoea and vomiting.
Gill Harris, director of infection prevention and control for WWL said, “Winter is always a busy time for us.
“And the last thing we need if for patients and staff to be affected by this virus, which could ultimately lead to staff shortage, additional bed pressures and appointments being postponed.
“We cannot rule out, at present, having to restrict visiting.”
Advice is also available online from NHS Choices www.nhs.uk and from NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.”