Clinical, News, Skilled Nursing Facility

Long-term facilities beginning to see norovirus outbreaks

In Medford, Oregon, a skilled nursing facility is recovering from a norovirus outbreak that affected 20 patients and 10 staff members.  Meanwhile, in Santa Barbara, CA, Samarkand Retirement Community confirmed in outbreak on December 10, and has since discouraged visitors until the outbreak is abated.

Because norovirus can be especially dangerous for the elderly, who can become dehydrated quickly, and for those with lower immune systems, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities must be proactive in preventing an outbreak. The virus is known best for spreading in facilities in which people are often in close quarters, such as cruise ships, day cares, and healthcare facilities.

The CDC, which offers prevention toolkits, offers the following information:

Transmission of Norovirus

Noroviruses are found in the feces and vomit of infected people. This virus is very contagious and can spread rapidly throughout healthcare facilities. People can become infected with the virus in several ways:

  • Having direct contact with another person who is infected (a healthcare worker, visitor, or another patient)
  • Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus
  • Touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus, and then touching your mouth or other food items

Prevention of Norovirus

In a healthcare facility, patients with suspected norovirus may be placed in private rooms or share rooms with other patients with the same infection. Additional prevention measures in healthcare facilities can decrease the chance of coming in contact with noroviruses:

  • Follow hand-hygiene guidelines, and carefully washing of hands with soap and water after contact with patients with norovirus infection
  • Use gowns and gloves when in contact with, or caring for patients who are symptomatic with norovirus
  • Routinely clean and disinfect high touch patient surfaces and equipment with an Environmental Protection Agency-approved product with a label claim for norovirus
  • Remove and wash contaminated clothing or linens
  • Healthcare workers who have symptoms consistent with norovirus should be excluded from work