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

Norovirus outbreak at Vancouver Island hospital

First suspected case came to West Coast General in Port Alberni on Dec. 31

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 of 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 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. It begins suddenly and lasts between one and three days.

There is no medicine for norovirus — antibiotics don’t work on viruses. Anyone sickened with it advised to drink clear fluids to prevent dehydration.

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 have 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.

“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 until 48 hours after all symptoms have cleared, which is standard outbreak protocol.

“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.

Check out Island Health’s active outbreak list and see the Frequently Asked Questions about infection prevention control.

editor@albernivalleynews.com

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