MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A veterans’ home in Minneapolis has put new admissions on hold after a norovirus outbreak that may have been a factor in the deaths of four residents, a Minnesota Department of Veteran Affairs spokeswoman said Thursday.
So far the virus has not been positively linked to the deaths at Minneapolis Veterans Home since March 7, department spokeswoman Anna Lewicki Long said. They all had other complications, she said.
At least one resident was hospitalized due to the virus, she said. About 20 employees have called in sick since March 7 with some sort of stomach virus, she said.
Minnesota Department of Health spokesman Doug Schultz said Thursday the symptoms have been consistent with norovirus and they think it likely is the virus but they are still waiting for test results, which could take several more days.
Norovirus - once known as Norwalk virus - is highly contagious. It can be picked up from an infected person, contaminated food or water or by touching contaminated surfaces. Sometimes mistaken for the stomach flu, the virus causes bouts of vomiting and diarrhea for a few days.
Healthy children and adults who get norovirus typically feel very sick for a day or two but soon recover, said Kirk Smith, head of the Health Department’s foodborne diseases unit. But it’s dangerous in places like nursing homes such as this one because many residents have underlying health problems, he said.
It’s not clear how the virus entered the home and in most outbreaks the original source is never identified, Smith said. While it’s by far the most common cause of foodborne disease outbreaks, he said, most cases are transmitted person to person.
Long said they are having employees wash their hands more often, reviewing sanitation procedures for staff, limiting visitation and group activities, stopping volunteers from coming in and having many residents stay in their rooms for meals.
Since January, the Health Department said, it has investigated 43 suspected or confirmed norovirus outbreaks involving two or more people. It said 27 of those have been in long-term care facilities, nursing homes, assisted living or other senior living environments.
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