Monday, January 4, 2010

Norovirus Returns To Northern Hemisphere

Winter Vomiting Bug Invades Hospitals, Nursing Homes and Schools

It never truly disappears. Summer or winter, Norovirus turns up wherever large groups of people congregate in crowds – on cruise ships, in hotels, on college campuses. Nevertheless, winter is "high season" for Norovirus – in England, in the United States and in Canada.

Already, hospitals in Saskatchewan and Ontario are experiencing the scourge of the winter vomiting bug. Two hospitals in southwest Saskatchewan – the Gull Lake Health Care Centre and the Shaunavon Care Centre – are off-limits to visitors until further notice by order of the Cypress Health Region.

In Ontario, Norovirus outbreaks have forced the implementation of quarantines and visitor restrictions on three floors of Kingston General Hospital, certain areas of Trenton Memorial Hospital, and portions of Belleville General Hospital.

PS3, a primary school in Pleasant Plains (Staten Island, NY) saw its student population drop by 25% for several days last month, as an outbreak of Norovirus spread through the school. At the peak of the outbreak, 250 children out of a student population of 928 stayed at home with symptoms that included fever, diarrhea and vomiting.

The United Kingdom was a nexus of Norovirus during the autumn and early winter. Outbreaks targeted:

Norovirus is a nursing nightmare. It's easily transmitted, highly infectious, and very rugged. Only through scrupulous disinfection of contaminated areas, punctilious attention to personal hygiene, and quarantine of infectious individuals can outbreaks be contained.

When visiting a hospital or nursing home, wash your hands carefully and frequently – both before and after contacting a patient or resident. Be aware of your contact with doorknobs, elevator buttons and other inanimate objects that may harbor live virus particles, and avoid touching your face with your hands after handling these objects.

Most importantly, if you are suffering from any contagious illness, whether respiratory or gastrointestinal, avoid visiting hospital patients or nursing home residents. Far better that they be deprived of your visit than for you to spread your contagion to those least able to resist its effects.

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