Advice on how to keep Norovirus at bay from Barton doctor Robert Jaggs-Fowler
I HAVE a confession to make. Despite the appearance of my weekly column over the past month, I actually ran away to sea one week before Christmas and have only just returned to North Lincolnshire.
What is more, I took one Cleethorpes woman with me (my wife, of course) and, while away, found myself being admirably and unexpectedly entertained in the evenings by a second Cleethorpes lass.
Now, all of the above demonstrates several things. First, what a hard task master the editor of this newspaper is (you should have seen him sitting on my suitcase on the quay side, refusing to budge until I had handed over sufficient work to fill these columns during my absence). The second is not, as you might think, how tolerant my wife must be (she is, but that is not the point); it is actually in respect to how talented some Northern Lincolnshire people are.
In this respect, I refer to the happy coincidence of coming across a very versatile and artistically gifted young lady called Heather Drakes. Heather, who now lives in Waltham, is a professional dancer, and was recently a member of the Headliners Theatre Company aboard the P&O cruise ship, the MS Aurora. With a different show almost every other night, Heather and her colleagues provided excellent entertainment.
However, not to neglect my professional duties while away, I maintained some medical reading and came across some interesting old remedies once used by ships' surgeons.
Evidently, Victorian doctors utilised a mix of alcohol and vinegar as a cure for travel sickness. If that failed to do the job, then a spot of blood-letting was tried; possibly resulting in a few anaemic passengers by the time they had traversed the Bay of Biscay (those readers who have been there will understand only too well the significance of that comment).
Finally, woe betides anyone with a bacterial infection on the voyage. With antibiotics still unknown, one frequent remedy was the use of mercury salts. So, if you did manage to reach your destination sober and without the need for a transfusion, you might have found that you had heavy metal poisoning instead.
That brings me to one of the main issues the modern traveller has to contend with. I refer to the dreaded Norovirus; otherwise known as the Winter Vomiting Disease.
Of course, the UK has seen a significant outbreak this winter, with more than a million people being affected. With the close living conditions aboard ships, one case of Norovirus infection can rapidly spread. However, the simple expedient of washing of hands, especially after using a toilet, before eating or drinking, and before touching your mouth or nose is sufficient to prevent Norovirus infection, as well as preventing many other viral and bacterial infections.
So, my take home message this week is never to neglect to regularly wash your hands.