HINCHINGBROOKE Hospital has had to close a ward because of norovirus for the first time this winter, it disclosed on Tuesday. The infection - commonly known as winter vomiting disease - resulted in multiple ward closures in the lead-up to Christmas last year and in the New Year. But, until now, while neighbouring hospitals have had to close several wards, Hinchingbrooke has been free of infection. Magnolia Ward is now closed to new admissions and visitors while nursing staff deal with four patients infected by the organism. The hospital is advising all visitors to stay away if they have had any symptoms of vomiting or diarrhoea in the previous 48 hours. It is also advising people to avoid visiting the emergency department with symptoms of diarrhoea and vomiting and to call NHS Direct in the first instance instead. Patients without symptoms and with scheduled outpatient appointments should still attend, the hospital stressed. Liz Pointing, director of nursing, midwifery and operations, said: "We are asking visitors to remember their responsibilities when it comes to keeping this virus out of our wards. "Visitors must stay away if they have been ill and should thoroughly wash their hands when entering and leaving wards. Hopefully, with the assistance of the public, we can limit the spread of this illness through our wards this winter.