Island Health is warning of an outbreak of norovirus at West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

West Coast General Hospital dealing with norovirus outbreak

West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni has been hit with a norovirus outbreak.

The first suspected case came to the hospital on Dec. 31, and Island Health put signs up in the hospital advising that the hospital “has an outbreak of an infectious illness” and that visitors “may wish to delay visiting at this time.”

As of Jan. 2 there were three confirmed norovirus cases and five suspected cases. An outbreak is declared when there are three or more potential cases, Island Health spokesperson Maribeth Burton said.

Norovirus is a group of viruses that cause acute gastroenteritis, an infection of the digestive tract. Outbreaks are more common in the winter, according to HealthLinkBC, and they affect B.C. communities every year.

Norovirus usually occurs within one to two days of being exposed, and causes an upset stomach, vomiting and/ or diarrhea. Other symptoms can include nausea, cramping, chills and fever. Norovirus begins suddenly and lasts between one and three days.

There is no medicine for norovirus—antibiotics don’t work on viruses. It is recommended anyone with norovirus drink clear fluids to prevent dehydration. Norovirus usually clears up in three days, but people worried about dehydration should see a health care provider; especially with regards to children and seniors.

Washing your hands, especially after using the toilet, changing diapers or before eating or preparing food is the best way to prevent getting norovirus. The virus is spread in vomit and feces of people who are sick with the virus, and can be spread on surfaces like sink taps or countertops.

All units remain open to visitors at WCGH, although the hospital is taking extra measures to deal with the virus. “We are asking visitors to stay home if they are sick,” Burton said. “People who do visit the hospital are asked to practice excellent hand hygiene and to keep visits short.”

Staff who are ill have been instructed not to report back to work at the hospital until 48 hours after all symptoms have cleared, which is standard outbreak protocol, she said.

“There are added cleaning measures in place at the hospital,” she added.

West Coast General was the only facility experiencing a norovirus outbreak on Vancouver Island as of Jan. 2.

A link to Island Health’s active outbreak list can be found at islandhealth.ca in Frequently Asked Questions about infection prevention control.

editor@albernivalleynews.com

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