CARE homes across the region are suffering from an ‘outbreak’ of a serious infectious illness, health chiefs say.

Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has said that more than 70 outbreaks of infectious norovirus in Dorset care homes have been investigated by Public Health England (PHE) in 2017/18 - more commonly known as the winter vomiting disease.

PHE bosses said that the figures reflected a regional trend.

Fiona Neely, a consultant in communicable diseases for Public Health England South West, added that it was important everyone helped to tackle the risk.

She said: “Many care homes across the south-west have reported outbreaks in recent weeks.

“We work closely with these institutions throughout the year to ensure that they have the right information and guidance to help prevent the spread of infection.

“But it’s important for everyone to remember that we all have a role to play in reducing the spread of winter bugs.

Norovirus is unusual in that hand sanitisers don’t kill the virus and so hand washing is the best way to stop this nasty infection before it passes on to others.”

The symptoms of norovirus include suddenly feeling sick, projectile vomiting, and watery diarrhoea.

Some people also have a slight fever, headaches, painful stomach cramps and aching limbs.

They appear one to two days after the person becomes infected and typically last for up to two or three days.

At the same time, the CCG also noted that Influenza had been a significant issue this year, with multiple reports of outbreaks or serious incident reports being made by care homes across the county as well as in acute and community hospitals.

Five cases of the Serratia bloodstream infection were also investigated which are acquired in a hospital or other healthcare facility.

Following investigations, clinical samples from the four cases were examined, with three cases of differing strains discovered.

In response, Dorset CCG added that all serious infectious incidents including norovirus were investigated and the report, lessons learned and action plans were reviewed by the PIR review group.

They added that the CCG works closely with partners including health providers, Local Authorities, Public Health England and Public Health Dorset.