Norovirus Prompts Quarantine of Florida Nursing Homes

<"">Norovirus has been linked to a gastrointestinal illness outbreak that has quarantined eight nursing homes in Florida’s Brevard County, WFTV reported. Not limited to facility residents, children are turning up with the sickness, according to pediatricians there.

The health department said norovirus can be more prevalent in nursing homes because of the number of residents and visitors, said WFTV. Also, according to the health department, norovirus is not all that unusual in nursing homes this time of the year.

In nursing home and hospital settings, outbreaks occur quickly due to shared bathroom and dining facilities, and incontinence hygiene issues. Norovirus outbreaks usually peak in cold weather when people are likelier to gather indoors. Spread of the virus may also increase because of environmental factors in winter such as lower temperatures and less sunlight.

And, although not considered as dangerous as the flu, facilities must be fully sanitized since the virus moves quickly, said WFTV, which noted that most of the eight facilities have received the “all clear.”

Administrators at the facilities said they were following health department protocols. It takes about two weeks for the virus to clear itself out of a facility, noted WFTV.

Noroviruses are a group of viruses that cause swelling in the linings of both the stomach and intestines, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A highly contagious, severe gastrointestinal illness commonly referred to as the so-called “stomach flu,” norovirus spreads quickly because it is transmitted easily from person to person through the vomit and feces of people who are sick with the illness. Contact with only a few particles can make a person ill.

Norovirus, which can survive for weeks on surfaces at room temperature, can not only be difficult to eliminate, norovirus can only be killed with chorine bleach. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers and other preparations are not too effective. Norovirus are not helped with antibiotics.

People become infected by eating contaminated food or drinking liquids; touching contaminated surfaces or objects, and then placing their hand in their mouth; and having direct contact with an infected person.

Once infected, people may feel very sick and vomit many times a day. Sometimes people are unable to drink enough liquids to replenish the liquids lost due to vomiting and diarrhea and can become dehydrated and require special medical attention.

According to the CDC, symptoms also include “diarrhea, and some stomach cramping. Sometimes people also have a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and a general sense of tiredness. The illness often begins suddenly, and the infected person may feel very sick. In most people the illness is self-limiting, with symptoms” lasting just one or days. Diarrhea tends to afflict children and vomiting is typically found in adults. Symptoms can present anywhere from 12 hours to a couple of days.

People are generally considered to be contagious from when they feel ill to about three days after their symptoms subside; however, the virus can still be active in their vomit or stool for two weeks or more.

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