Norovirus Strikes Massachusetts Hospital

The Southcoast Health System, which has been hit with a <"">norovirus outbreak, is now taking steps to stop the outbreak, such as increased disinfection, said South Coast Today.

Initially, 10 patients were placed in isolation at Tobey Hospital in Wareham, Masschusettes. Seven patients and hospital staff were later suspected of having norovirus, said Joyce Brennan, a spokeswoman for Southcoast Health System, wrote South Coast Today. By the end of last week, a total of 30 people were identified as having norovirus; however, there have been others who came into the hospital complaining of symptoms consistent with norovirus, as well as some staff who called in sick at the hospital, added South Coast Today.

Noroviruses are a group of viruses that cause swelling in the linings of both the stomach and intestines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wrote South Coast Today. 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.

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.

“When we have a cluster of events like this and you start noticing some trends, then we implement other changes to try to further prevent the spread of infection,” said Patrick Gannon, chief quality officer for Southcoast Health System, quoted South Coast Today. Some changes include mandating staff wear a gown, gloves, and masks when working with this patients and ensuring symptoms checks with personnel before they start their shifts, added Gannon.

Hospital officials issued a message asking those recently suffering from the symptoms of norovirus to avoid making visits at the hospital, said South Coast Today. “Most people do not need to seek further medical care and should stay at home so as not to further spread the disease,” the hospital’s statement says. “If symptoms worsen, a health care provider should be sought,” it continued, quoted South Coast Today.

Those patients believed to be infected with norovirus are being cared for at Tobey in a separate unit and with separate staff to contain the virus, said Joyce Brennan, a spokeswoman for Southcoast Health System. Also, environmental services personnel “are now taking extra disinfecting measures around the hospitals, especially in any public areas,” Brennan added, reported South Coast today. Brennan confirmed that an outside lab is testing stool samples to confirm norovirus.

Dr. Alfred DeMaria, state epidemiologist and medical director of the Bureau of Infectious Disease said in an email to The Standard-Times, “Norovirus is the most common cause of epidemic gastroenteritis all over the world,” reported South Coast Today.

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