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Norovirus hits shelter for fire evacuees in Chico, second shelter may be affected

Here’s the scene at the Walmart where Camp Fire victims have sought refuge

Many residents of Paradise – and nearby communities – displaced by the Camp Fire were still camping at the Walmart parking lot in Chico on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018.
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Many residents of Paradise – and nearby communities – displaced by the Camp Fire were still camping at the Walmart parking lot in Chico on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018.

Norovirus has broken out at a Butte County shelter housing Camp Fire evacuees, and an outbreak is suspected at a second shelter.

Fifteen to 20 people staying at Neighborhood Church of Chico have become ill, and lab tests have confirmed they have norovirus, said Lisa Almaguer, spokeswoman for the Butte County Public Health Department.

Fire evacuees staying at Oroville Church of the Nazarene shelter are also showing symptoms of the virus, but lab tests have not yet confirmed it, Almaguer said. She said about 166 people are staying at that facility as of Wednesday afternoon.

About 170 people are staying at the Chico shelter, said shelter manager Diane Shoen of the American Red Cross. Citing health confidentiality laws, she wouldn’t confirm the report Wednesday night.

But several residents said they had heard of one or more evacuees being quarantined because of a health issue.

“They want us to keep washing our hands and not shake hands and use Purell (sanitizer) before dinner,” said Rich Montgomery, an evacuee from Magalia.

He said he saw a resident of the shelter “puking into a toilet” several nights ago.

Don Martin of Paradise said he’d heard talk of a health issue, too, but he wasn’t afraid. If the problem was rampant, “you’d see sick people everywhere,” he said.

Norovirus is a highly contagious virus that can cause diarrhea, vomiting and other stomach problems, fever and body aches.

The virus is common when people are in close contact, such as schools and summer camps, said Cynthia Shaw, a Red Cross spokeswoman.

“The best way to stop the spread of the virus is hand washing, food safety and isolation of those who are sick,” Shaw said.

The workers at the shelters are taking those steps, she said.

Sick people being quarantined into different rooms and using different bathrooms than the healthy people staying at the shelters, Almaguer said.

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