Nine Tauranga hospital staff have caught a highly contagious stomach bug, with an outbreak of norovirus at the hospital.

The outbreak was reported on Sunday afternoon when 22 patients fell ill with the gastroenteritis bug, which causes vomiting and diarrhoea. The first cases of norovirus were identified last Monday.

Hospital staff have not been formally tested but since Friday, nine staff have called in sick with symptoms of viral gastroenteritis - nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhoea.

Tauranga Hospital incident controller Julie Williams said the outbreak affected mostly elderly patients in the Health and Ageing general medical wards 2A, 2B and 2C.

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She said the highly contagious virus was being contained inside these specific wards, which had been isolated and were closed to admissions.

"At the hospital, there are presently 18 cases that are either positive or suspected," Mrs Williams said.

Asked if the virus was potentially life threatening for patients who were in hospital, she said "not usually". Most cases of norovirus would disappear without treatment within one to two days.