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Norwalk virus: 'Cruise ship' illness challenging and costly to hospitals, too
Date:8/29/2007

ion, but 13 afflicted hospital staff either visited the emergency room for treatment or required hospitalization after becoming severely dehydrated. Norwalk-like viruses, formally known as noroviruses, cause serious gastrointestinal illness for which no treatment currently exists except for keeping the patient well hydrated. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and severe stomach cramps. Those infected generally recover on their own within two to three days after symptoms appear.

Health care workers really do need to be on the lookout for norovirus infections, and if there is an outbreak, hospitals need to address it very aggressively, says senior hospital epidemiologist Trish Perl, M.D., a professor of medicine and pathology at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Our experience shows that people can get very sick and that it costs a lot to fix the problem and address disruptions to staffing.

First reported in the hospitals coronary care unit, or CCU, the JHH outbreak quickly spread over a two-week period but remained clustered in the CCU, a nearby echocardiography laboratory and a floor housing psychiatric services where patients and staff frequently interact, especially during group therapy sessions.

The outbreak was detected soon after it began when two staff members who worked closely together became ill with diarrhea. Their illnesses were immediately reported to Hopkins infection control team, which monitors hospital operations daily for potential hazards to patient safety.

A norovirus outbreak was immediately suspected because there had been numerous reports of illness throughout the Baltimore region.

As part of their investigation, nurse managers began screening all staff and patients for any signs of gastrointestinal illness. Patient stool samples confirmed that the culprit was a norovirus, and genetic testing later verified that it was the same viral strain, genogroup II.4, that c
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Contact: David March
dmarch1@jhmi.edu
410-955-1534
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Source:Eurekalert

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