CASES of winter illnesses like covid-19, flu and norovirus are rising in the Devon and people are urged to take steps to prevent the spread.

NHS Devon is reminding people to stay safe and well this winter by wearing a face mask in healthcare settings, washing their hands regularly and practicing social distancing whenever they can.

Darryn Allcorn, Chief Nurse at NHS Devon said: ‘We are seeing a worrying increase of flu, Covid-19 and norovirus cases in Devon this week and high numbers of patients being admitted to Devon’s hospitals with potentially infectious respiratory conditions.

‘We are doing everything we can to try and minimise the impact of this, and the risk to patients and staff, but there are important actions local people can take to help prevent the spread.

‘If you are in a healthcare setting, we encourage you to minimise your contact with other patients, have good hand hygiene, especially if you use any shared facilities such as bathrooms and if you can tolerate it, wear a face mask when you move around the environment.’

To help minimise transmission and keep patients, staff and visitors safe, the NHS is asking that only one person accompanies someone if they attend an Emergency Department.

‘If you are feeling unwell, have diarrhoea, vomiting or respiratory symptoms, please don’t visit a hospital for at least 48 hours after the last symptom has gone. Norovirus can have a serious impact on patients who are often more vulnerable to catching it.

‘Regularly wash your hands with soap and warm water, especially after using the toilet, and before eating or preparing food. Only hand-washing will prevent spread of Norovirus – alcohol hand gels DON’T kill the virus.’

Norovirus can be treated at home with plenty of fluids and paracetamol to relieve pain. You don’t normally need to see your GP - antibiotics won’t help because it’s caused by a virus.

Darryn Allcorn added: ‘Please do everything you can, as a relative or carer of someone in hospital, to work with us to get patients home from hospital as quickly and as safely as possible.

‘We are seeing an increase of very sick people in our hospitals, so if a family member is ready to be discharged home, please collect them as soon as you can to try and prevent them from being at risk of infection.

‘Having the Covid-19 and flu vaccines will also reduce the chance of you spreading Covid-19 and flu to friends and family who may be more at risk of serious problems if they get ill.’

Help us to help you:

1. Try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people if you come down with a winter bug and do not feel well enough to do your normal activities. Follow simple self-care tips from and family or friends can get good advice from the community pharmacy - a great first port of call.

2. If you’re ill or injured, it’s not life threatening and you’re unsure where to turn, use or call 111 for advice. The 111 phone service can book you into NHS services if needed.

3. Follow the latest advice throughout the holiday period on local NHS social media channels and websites