Inspections ordered at Scottish hospitals after 200 hit by virus

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All hospitals in Scotland are to be subjected to emergency hygiene inspections after a viral outbreak struck down more than 200 people at Glasgow's Victoria Infirmary.

The announcement by Malcolm Chisholm, Scotland's Health Minister, came as a further 31 cases of the outbreak were detected at the hospital – where three patients died last week from an unrelated outbreak of salmonella – taking the total to 218.

The infirmary was closed to new patients on Friday after the infection, described as "winter vomiting", took hold.

Yesterday, an "outbreak control" team was drafted in to take command of the situation and trace the source of the infection, amid suggestions that hospital standards had been allowed to slide.

A spokesman for the South Glasgow University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the Victoria Infirmary and the Southern General Hospital, said that 88 non-urgent operations originally scheduled for yesterday and today had been cancelled and that all emergency patients were to be admitted to the Southern General Hospital until the cause of the infection had been identified.

Details about the disease first emerged on Thursday, the day that the deaths from salmonella were announced. The trust said it believed that the salmonella infection, which affected five men in the same ward, had been brought in by another patient, who has since been discharged.

The family of one man who died 10 days ago, Rudolfo Ionta, aged 74, who had multiple sclerosis, have demanded a public inquiry into his death.

The number of victims of the infection has continued to rise despite efforts to contain its spread by restricting admissions while continuing normal outpatient and day-care services. Most people recover from the virus within 48 hours, usually without treatment. However, the extent of the outbreak, which has now affected 69 members of staff and 149 patients, forced the trust to order the hospital's closure.

Jim McMenamin, a public health consultant with the Greater Glasgow Health Board, said: "We are discouraging anyone from visiting because we don't want them to be at any risk. It's especially important that anyone with symptoms of vomiting or diarrhoea does not visit the hospital themselves for a period of 48 hours after their symptoms have disappeared, so as not to put anyone in the hospital at risk."

The virus that causes "winter vomiting" is a common cause of infection responsible for an estimated 300,000 cases in Scotland each year.

Infection-control nurses and medics from Glasgow's public health department, who were continuing to monitor the outbreak, said they expected to see a reduction in the number of new cases in the next few days.

Dr David Stewart, the associate medical director of the trust, said: "The outbreak control team continue to expect a reducing number of new cases over the next few days. However, new cases may develop in patients and staff who have already incubated the virus."

Announcing the inspection programme, Mr Chisholm said: "We shouldn't be judged by the problem, but what we do about it. I remain very concerned by this outbreak and the impact it is having on hospital services in south Glasgow.

"I accept that public confidence in the Victoria has been affected by this situation, but there appears to be encouraging indications from those public health doctors investigating the outbreak that the worst may be over. Issues of concern have been raised. I share those concerns and that is why I have called for an urgent report into the outbreak."

In a separate outbreak, 130 children were struck down by a stomach virus that spread through Forthill Primary School in Dundee.

Dr Drew Walker, the director of public health on the NHS Tayside board, described the illness as "mild" and said that it usually lasted for between 24 and 48 hours.

"It is something that happens regularly," he said. "The only thing that is not routine, perhaps, is the larger number of children than we would see on average, but the actual outbreak and the kind of symptoms the children are getting are the sort of things you would expect to see ... particularly in the winter months."

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