Cowichan District Hospital
Photo via mycowichanvalleynow.com

A Norovirus outbreak has affected 10 people in the Cowichan District Hospital in Duncan, according to Island Health.

The virus, also known as the stomach flu, has been confirmed in three patients and is suspected in seven more.

Three hospital staff members have also come down with Norovirus symptoms.

“Visitors are still welcome but we’re limiting those visits in time,” Island Health spokesperson Meribeth Burton told Victoria Buzz.

People stopping by are asked to practice “excellent hand washing” before and after visiting the hospital.

Island Health is asking that only immediate family members visit patients, and that they keep the stops short.

“If they don’t need to visit we’re asking them not to visit,” said Burton.

Duncan is the second community to experience an outbreak, with the same illness affecting 8 patients and 2 staff members at the West Coast Hospital in Port Alberni.

Island Health’s active outbreak list can be found online here.

Symptoms

While the Norovirus is relatively common, it’s extremely unpleasant and potentially dangerous.

Island Health defines a Norovirus as “a group of viruses that cause acute gastroenteritis.”

“Norovirus outbreaks occur in BC communities every year,” says the health agency.

“The virus can be spread among people if they do not wash their hands or if someone with this illness handles food, water or ice.”

Symptoms usually appear within 24-48 hours after exposure to the virus. While there is no specific treatment for the illness, most people make a full recovery in two or three days.

In extreme cases, hospitalization may be required.

Symptoms are:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain or cramps
  • Watery or loose diarrhea
  • Malaise
  • Low-grade fever
  • Muscle pain

Prevention

According to Island Health, hand washing is the most important step you can take to protect against the stomach flu.

“Hand washing is critically important,” said Burton.

“Norovirus happens especially in wintertime. Your best defense is hand washing.”

The fact that the illness is viral and not bacterial makes treating the symptoms difficult.

“There are no antibiotics for Norovirus, it has to run its course.”

Extra cleaning staff have been added to both hospitals, and intense terminal cleans have been implemented.

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