FIVE major wards at a Southampton hospital have been shut after an outbreak of the winter vomiting bug norovirus.

Families have been told to stay away as bosses confirmed that five wards at Southampton General Hospital have been closed to new admissions in a bid to prevent it spreading.

They are the first ward closures to hit this winter as a result of the virus which swept across the country like never before last winter with more than one million people affected.

Last December, Southampton General Hospital saw four wards closed to new admissions and it seems the highly infectious bug is back with news of this latest outbreak.

Visitor restrictions are now in place across the whole of University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Southampton General, Princess Anne Hospital and Countess Moutbatten House, as it steps up the fight against norovirus and attempt to contain it.

It comes just one week after the Daily Echo revealed how plans are being considered to slash the number of cleaning hours by 17,000 a year at the hospital.

As reported, cleaners working for Medirest who have the contract with the Trust, were told the news by bosses. However Medirest and hospital bosses have both insisted clinical areas would not be affected - something disputed by union leaders who claim their members working on wards have been warned their hours could be slashed.

One relative of a patient who turned up at the hospital on Thursday night was told that they could not go onto the ward as it was sealed off.

He said: “It is worrying to think that this bug is now on five wards. It is difficult when your loved one is on one of the wards affected and we can't go to keep them company but I understand that these measures need to be taken to stop it spreading any further.”

Relatives of patients can only visit if it has been agreed by nursing staff, so anyone planning to visit are being advised to call the relevant ward or department before arriving.

Advice on the hospital website reads: “Temporary visitor restrictions are in place due to an outbreak of norovirus. Although this is currently only affecting a few wards, restrictions have been put in place to contain the spread of the virus.

“Anyone who attends hospital with an urgent medical problem but is suffering from diarrhoea or vomiting, or has been in contact with someone with symptoms, should tell staff about it immediately on arrival so they can be treated separately, as this virus is highly infectious.”

They also asked for anyone who has suffered from symptoms not to visit the hospital until at least 72 hours after their last episode of sickness.

Symptoms of the bug include a sudden sick feeling, followed by forceful vomiting and watery diarrhoea, a raised temperature, headaches and stomach cramps.

Those affected are advices to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, take paracetamol for any fevers or aches and only eat food that are easy to digest.

Most importantly those with symptoms are urged to stay at home and not to go to the doctor as it is contagious and there is nothing a doctor can do while you have it.

The best ways to avoid it include keeping good hygiene, washing hands frequently disinfect surfaces, flush toilets immediately and wash any clothing or linen which could have become contaminated.