HEALTH chiefs say East Lancashire hospitals have beaten the winter vomiting bug again — with no wards being forced to close during this year’s outbreak.

Elsewhere, five wards at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital are closed because of norovirus, and in December four wards at the Royal Bolton Hospital were shut to contain an outbreak there.

But strict infection control procedures at the Royal Blackburn Hospital and Burnley General Hospital have helped ensure business as usual in East Lancashire.

Rineke Schram, medical director and director of infection prevention and control, said: “Norovirus this year has affected only three wards but the wards remain open and cases have been isolated under infection control guidelines.

“High standards of infection control, hygiene and the provision of a clean and well-maintained environment are at the heart of the successful delivery of healthcare services.”

Noroviruses are a classification of bug with a number of different strains, but most are highly infectious, causing a few days of severe vomiting and diarrhoea.

They affect between 600,000 and 1million people every year.

Hospitals, nursing homes, cruise ships and prisons are vulnerable to large-scale outbreaks, because of close contact between residents.

This year health chiefs ran a campaign in December advising anyone showing the symptoms to remain at home where they will recovery naturally, rather than present themselves at hospital or doctors’ surgeries.

There is no specific treatment for the virus, but health experts recommend drinking plenty of water to replace fluids, while the infection runs its course.

Trust chief executive Marie Burnham added: “We are very proud of the fact that, for the second year running, we have been able to keep all our wards open during the winter outbreak.

“In many hospitals, a single norovirus infection can easily spread through the whole site if they are not contained properly — some trusts have had their services wiped out by outbreaks in previous years.

“We have no infections and we are working hard to keep it that way.”

Mrs Schram added that the trust was also winning the war on infections such as MRSA and C.difficile.

She said: “East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust is committed to reducing the incidence of Healthcare Associated Infection.”