Families' festivities were cut short this year with high levels of sickness hitting people across the county.

The winter vomiting bug (norovirus) and flu resulted in many families' Christmas and New Year celebrations being put on hold.

Patients in one nursing home developing the norovirus resulted in the home being closed to visitors for a four day period.

"Some of our patients had the winter vomiting bug but we are clear now," said a spokesperson for the Millcroft Nursing Home in Enniskillen. It started a week ago and we were closed to visitors for approximately four days," she said.

The home, which was closed to visitors over New Year, opened again to clients' relatives and friends yesterday (Wednesday).

"We are free today," she said yesterday. "It is the first day that visitors are coming," she added. The incidence of winter sickness is not usual for the Enniskillen home.

"It isn't an annual event for us. We haven't had it for a couple of years," she added.

Paying tribute to staff, she said: "When patients are being nursed in their bedrooms, it has an impact on staff. We managed though. Staff are very flexible and willing to come and help out".

Sickness affected families and young children over the holiday period, with parents reporting waits to access GP treatment at the Western Out of Hours centre at the new South West Acute Hospital.

One mother of a toddler spoke of calling the Out of Hours at the weekend and was told there would be a "considerable" wait before a doctor could call back. The GP called almost three hours later. On attending the centre, there was another wait of one and a half hours. "The patients were almost all young children, two years and younger. All of them were coughing," she said. The GP on call had said it had been extremely busy.

One news source described Western Urgent Care seeing 6,000 patients over the ten days leading to new year.

A spokesperson for the Health and Social Care Board said: "Anecdotally we have heard it was a very busy Christmas period for both GP surgeries and Western Urgent Care over the entire Christmas break and New Year. It was caused by the norovirus, flus and usual winter complaints".