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Wednesday, 23 January, 2002, 16:01 GMT
Gastric virus causing widespread misery
The bug is known as a small round structured virus
A gastric virus that has thrown hospitals in Scotland into chaos appears to be causing misery across the whole of Britain.

Two Glasgow hospitals have been forced to close their doors to new admissions.

It is a very clever virus. It is pretty good at spreading itself

Professor Hugh Pennington
But while the problem continues to be most severe north of the border, similar cases have been recorded throughout England.

The Public Health Laboratory Service said the virus was common, but levels were higher than usual this year.

Heath Secretary Alan Milburn said he was "keeping a close eye" on developments.

He said: "It's right to be concerned about it.

"It happens every year but the important thing is that we keep it under close monitoring, which is precisely what we are doing."

Schools appear to be particularly vulnerable. Thousands of children in the north-west of England have fallen ill.

Three hundred of the 900 pupils at All Hallows School in Penwortham are currently off sick.


Reported outbreaks
Market Drayton
Among those who picked up the bug is 15-year-old Jenna Clorin-Wright from Middleton in Manchester.

She said: "You feel terrible really for about three days. All my friends have come down with it, and there is a lot off school."

The sickness is often known as "winter vomiting disease".

It is caused by bugs known as small round structured viruses and is highly contagious.

The illness usually starts with the sudden onset of severe and dramatic vomiting.

The victim can be absolutely fine one minute and then vomiting the next. Some people develop diarrhoea.

Symptoms usually last for 24-36 hours, and there are rarely any long-term effects

Professor Hugh Pennington, an expert in disease from Aberdeen University, described the bug as the "Mike Tyson" of viruses.

"It is a very clever virus. It is pretty good at spreading itself."

Biggest outbreak

Fifteen hospitals across Scotland are now known to have been affected by the virus.

The most serious outbreak so far has occurred at the Victoria Infirmary in Glasgow, which put a block on all new admissions on Monday.

By Wednesday evening a total 295 patients and staff had become infected.

Health chiefs say they hopes to resume normal patient admissions on Sunday.

The North Glasgow University Hospital Trust announced on Tuesday that no new patients would be admitted to the Drumchapel Hospital for at least 24 hours after 11 people there developed the sickness.

In Wales, two dozen staff and elderly patients on a care ward at Morriston Hospital in Swansea were reported to have been struck down by the virus on Thursday.

Health chiefs closed the ward to new admissions until the outbreak clears.

The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"It's proving very disruptive"
See also:

22 Jan 02 | Scotland
Hospital infection call dismissed
22 Jan 02 | Scotland
Hospital virus' impact spreads
21 Jan 02 | Scotland
Doctors 'cut corners' over hygiene
21 Jan 02 | Health
Controlling hospital infection
21 Jan 02 | Scotland
Virus-hit school may stay shut
18 Jan 02 | Scotland
Action threat over bug death
22 Jan 02 | T-Z
Winter vomiting virus
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