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Bug-hit hospital reopens

KENT and Canterbury Hospital has reopened after an enforced Christmas closure due to winter vomiting disease.

Staff had taken advantage of a natural Christmas slow-down to try to contain the outbreak that refuses to go away.

In the three weeks to Christmas, more than 200 patients and staff were been struck by the bug and 14 of the 16 wards have been closed at some point.

From Christmas morning, emergency ambulance patients were diverted to hospitals in Ashford and Margate and family doctors redirected their hospital referrals.

David Astley, chief executive of East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust, explained: "On Christmas Eve, planned surgery traditionally stops for a few days anyway, which gave us an excellent opportunity to rest the hospital.

"It was a difficult request at Christmas time, but it was imperative we made full use of the opportunity."

The hospital reopened on Boxing Day night, and already there are encouraging signs.

A spokesman said on Tuesday there were now 18 people at the hospital with symptoms of the bug, compared to 100 at one time at its height. Only two wards remain closed.

The disease is caused by the norovirus. Symptoms include projectile vomiting and severe diarrhoea, and can last up to 48 hours.

It is highly contagious, particularly in areas where several people are close, such as a hospital ward.

Trust staff are explaining the potential risks to patients and anyone with non-urgent surgery is being offered the chance to postpone it.

Relatives and visitors are still being asked to stay away

The closure over Christmas allowed for further deep cleaning of the wards, overseen by the Kent and Medway Health Protection Agency.

Director of the agency, Dr Mathi Chandrakumar, is confident the hospital has seen the worst of the outbreak.

"The situation is now well under control and I am satisfied with the control measures that have been implemented," he said.

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