Health & Medicine

February 13, 2013

Norovirus suspected of sickening dozens of seniors in care facilities

A possible norovirus outbreak has sickened almost 40 older adults at two assisted living facilities in Sacramento, county public health officials have confirmed. One patient was sent to an emergency room.

Only three of the older adults remained ill Tuesday, says Lisa Schumann, executive director of the Carlton Plaza Sacramento and the Crown Plaza Sacramento, the two Fulton Avenue facilities where the potential outbreak occurred.

Tests have not yet confirmed norovirus – the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis – according to Laura McCasland, Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman, but the county's public health lab was closed Tuesday for the Lincoln's Birthday holiday.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Americans each year experience 21 million cases of norovirus, a foodborne virus causing nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Some 70,000 people are hospitalized as a result of the virus. Small children and the elderly are at particular risk of complications.

"It's hard on seniors," Schumann said.

Fourteen Crown Plaza Sacramento residents and 20 Carlton Plaza Sacramento residents became ill, McCasland said. The one person who went to the hospital for treatment has since returned to the assisted living facility, she said.

To reduce spread of the possible outbreak, Schumann said, her facilities closed their dining rooms and shut down communal activities, encouraging residents instead to remain in their own apartments. In addition, public health officials recommend a strict regimen of repeated hand washing.

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