Fraser Health confirmed Thursday that Peace Arch Hospital has an outbreak of Norwalk virus in the fourth floor medical unit.
The virus – also referred to as the Novovirus group, or described non-technically as ‘stomach flu’ – is a common cause of vomiting and/or diarrheal illness each winter. It is often found in institutional settings such as child-care centres, schools and long-term care facilities where it is easily spread person to person, through water contamination or through contact with contaminated surfaces such as counters, taps and door handles.
Fraser Health spokesperson Joan Marshall said a total of nine cases had been identified in the fourth-floor medical unit, but that the outbreak is considered “under control.”
She said that as a result of the outbreak, declared Monday, the affected unit, and the Dr. Al Hogg Pavilion, which provides long-term care to seniors, are not accepting any new patients.
An additional 10 medical beds opened last week at the hospital should accommodate any additional patients, she said.
“It’s considered an outbreak if there are three or more cases within four days,” Marshall said, adding that the outbreak status continues until “72 hours after resolution of the symptoms of the last identified case.”
Novovirus infections (named Norwalk following an outbreak in Norwalk, Ohio in the early 1970s) typically last one to three days. Patients can spread the virus up to two days after symptoms subside. It poses the greatest risk to elderly, disabled or immuno-compromised patients, as a result of dehydration.
Marshall said the hospital has been taking increased infection-control measures, including “enhanced cleaning” and limited visitations.
“It can often be brought in from outside,” Marshall said.
“We’re asking that members of the public who have this suspend visits to friends and loved ones in the hospital.
“It’s very common at this time of year, and you can help prevent it by thorough hand washing.