PEOPLE with the winter vomiting bug norovirus are being warned to stay away from the Royal Berkshire Hospital after an outbreak among patients.

Hospital bosses announced today that a \"handful\" of patients have contacted the illness and are urging members of the public who have suffered diarrhoea and vomiting within the last 48 hours to postpone visiting friends and relatives there.

Hospital spokesman Joe Wise said: \"At present we are fortunate in having no more than a handful of patients suffering from the virus and we are working hard to prevent any more people - patients or staff - from catching it.\"

He warned a blanket visiting ban - adopted by a number of hospitals elsewhere would only be imposed as a \"final resort\" and added: \"The best present people can give their relatives in hospital this Christmas is by not giving them the unwanted gift of this potentially dangerous unpleasant virus.

\"By ignoring this message, people will be putting their loved ones and friends at real risk.\"

People who have been in close contact with someone with the symptoms should also avoid visits and large numbers of visitors should be avoided to stop the spread.