SOUTHAMPTON hospital bosses have introduced restrictions on visitors as they step up their fight against the norovirus.

Temporary restrictions on visitors have been activated in a bid to prevent the further spread of the winter vomiting bug that may have affected more than one million people so far this year.

Latest figures from the Health Protection Agency revealed that laboratory-confirmed cases has reached 3,538 in England and Wales but for every case reported, an estimated 288 go unreported, meaning there could be 1.01 million cases.

So far Southampton General Hospital has remained largely unaffected with just four wards currently closed to new admissions.

Unlike Southampton-based cruise liner Queen Mary 2, which the Daily Echo revealed yesterday, above, had seen around 130 of its passengers struck down with the highly contagious bug during a Christmas Caribbean cruise.

But doctors in Southampton are concerned that the sustained high levels of diarrhoea and vomiting within the community could worsen the situation if visitors bring the infection onto the wards.

Judy Gillow, director of nursing, left, said: “We have contained the spread of sickness bugs within hospital well throughout November and December and over Christmas, but cases have remained high outside and we are now beginning to see that have an effect on us.

“Therefore, as we look to prevent widespread infection among our patients and staff, we have introduced a temporary restriction on visitors to help protect our patients.”

Despite the restrictions, visiting is permitted on agreement with nursing staff. Anyone planning to visit Southampton General, the Princess Anne Hospital or hospice Countess Mountbatten House is asked to call their relevant ward and department.

Ms Gillow added: “While it is important we do everything we can to prevent people fuelling the spread of these highly contagious bugs around our hospitals, we fully understand that some patients will benefit from seeing visitors, we just ask that this is agreed with ward staff to ensure we protect the most vulnerable patients.”

Anyone who attends hospital with urgent medical problems but is suffering from a virus or has been in contact with someone with sickness are urged to tell staff about it immediately on arrival so they can be treated separately, as this virus is highly infectious.