Norvirus Sickens 60 at Illinois Retirement Home

An emerging <"">norovirus outbreak has sickened over 60 people and reports continue to come in. Residents and staff have been stricken with Norovirus at a retirement home, according to health officials, wrote The Chicago Sun Times. North Shore Hotel is located at 1611 Chicago Avenue in Evanston and reports of illness began surfacing March 19, said a release from the Evanston’s Health Department.

The health department is collecting samples to confirm emerging cases and the North Shore Hotel hired extra cleaning staff to clean and sanitize surfaces, which is one pathway for the virus to congregate and be passed, according to the health department’s press release, wrote the Sun times.

Norovirus outbreaks occur frequently in closed populations, such as in retirement and health facilities, and 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 transmits easily through the vomit and feces of people 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.

Although not considered as dangerous as the flu, facilities must be fully sanitized since the virus moves quickly. Norovirus, which can survive for weeks on surfaces at room temperature, can be difficult to eliminate, and can only be killed with chorine bleach. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers and other preparations are not too helpful. 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.

The Sun Times notes that no vaccine exists to prevent or treat Norovirus infection. The health department recommends that people wash hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds and cautions that those who feel ill refrain from preparing foods. Also, said the health department, surfaces should be cleaned and sanitized and laundry should be completely washed and dried in a machine using heat, wrote The Sun Times.

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.

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