‘Stomach bug’ at West Coast General Hospital could be Norovirus: VIHA

The Vancouver Island Health Authority is testing cases of stomach flu in Port Alberni to determine if Norovirus has hit the region.

A stomach bug that has hit West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni could be Norovirus. However, Vancouver Island Health Authority spokesperson Anya Nimmon came short of calling it an outbreak, Monday (March 12).

“There is some GI (gastrointestinal illness) going on the hospital right now. We don’t know if it’s Norovirus cases. They will have to be tested,” Nimmon said. She added that the health authority should have a better idea what they are dealing with on Tuesday, once test results are back.

Norovirus is considered very contagious, according to an information sheet on the VIHA website. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, stomach pain and sometimes fever. The illness usually begins suddenly and lasts three to five days.

The incubation period for Norovirus is 24–48 hours; the virus is transmitted by direct or indirect contact from hands and surfaces or by droplets from an infected person’s vomit.

Hospitals in the Vancouver Island Health Authority don’t have a specialized method for dealing with Norovirus, Nimmon said. “We have standard infection control protocols.”

She reinforced the tried and true method of thorough handwashing for keeping the virus at bay. She also cautioned people to stay home from the hospital or seniors’ facilities if they are sick.

“If you’re feeling ill, don’t visit people in facilities because it’s most often brought in from the public,” she said.

Other communities on Vancouver Island have been hit with Norovirus already, Nimmon said. VIHA has a link on Norovirus information on its website, www.viha.ca, which also shows where active outbreaks are located on Vancouver Island.

West Coast General  Hospital was not included on the active outbreak list as of Monday night.