TWO hospital wards have been closed following an outbreak of the winter vomiting bug in a specialist elderly unit in Glasgow.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde have been forced to close two wards at the Langlands Unit, which shares a campus with the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, after a number of elderly patients fell ill with sickness and diarrhoea.

No new patients are being admitted to the wards to limit the spread of the stomach virus, which is highly contagious. The bug is spread via contaminated surfaces, food and water.

It is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis around the world every year, and hospital outbreaks are common during winter when cases of the virus spike.

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The health board said there has also been a rise in norovirus cases in the community and urged anyone experiencing symptoms not to visit friends or family in hospital. A spokeswoman added that there are currently no other wards across NHS GGC closed due to norovirus.

Norovirus causes nausea followed by projectile vomiting and watery diarrhoea. Although it is very unpleasant, in most cases it clears up within two or three days.

However, in sick people it can contribute to mortality by causing underlying illnesses to become worse. Elderly people are especially at risk for complications caused by dehydration, such as kidney failure.

Dr Linda de Caestecker, NHS GGC’s director of public health said: “Norovirus, sometimes known as the ‘winter vomiting bug’, is the most common stomach bug in the UK, affecting people of all ages.

“It is highly contagious and is transmitted by contact with contaminated surfaces, an infected person, or consumption of contaminated food or water.

“The symptoms of norovirus are very distinctive – people often report a sudden onset of nausea, followed by projectile vomiting and watery diarrhoea.

“Most people with norovirus will make a full recovery in one to two days. It is important to keep hydrated – especially children and the elderly.

“Good hand hygiene using soap and water is important to stop the spread of the virus.”

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The outbreak in Glasgow comes despite unusually low rates of norovirus so far in 2019, with the latest national statistics for norovirus showing that rates across Scotland are currently below average for the time of year.

Data from Health Protection Scotland reveals that there have been a total of 633 confirmed cases so far this year, compared to 1148 by the same point in 2017 and 1173 by this point, on average, in the past five years.

There were 10 cases recorded, Scotland-wide, in the week ending October 13 compared to an average of 20 for the same week over the past five years.

Although norovirus is common, the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital campus has also been in the spotlight over a series of rarer infections.

The Crown Office is still investigating the deaths, in December 2018 and January this year, of two cancer patients - a 10-year-old boy and a woman, aged 73 - who had both contracted an infection caused by a fungus found in pigeon droppings.

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The cases followed the closure, in September 2018, of two paediatric cancer wards in the adjacent Royal Hospital for Children following a string of different blood infections in children which were traced to the wards' water supply.

Children were moved to adult cancer wards in the QEUH instead for treatment. However, in August it emerged that Ward 6A had been closed to new admissions after three youngsters developed infections.

Some young cancer patients are now travelling to Edinburgh or Aberdeen as a result.