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

aused a series of widely publicized outbreaks in nursing homes and on cruise ships traveling from Europe and the United States in 2002.

As the investigation proceeded, staff implemented strict precautions to control the outbreak and prevent it from spreading. Patients with symptoms were placed in isolation, by being moved to either private rooms or into the same room with other sick patients. Group therapy sessions in psychiatry were temporarily halted, and no new patients were admitted to the units primarily affected. Sick staff were sent home for as long as they had symptoms plus an additional 72 hours, sufficient time for the illness to pass and no longer be contagious.

The investigation showed that many of the initial health care workers in the CCU who became ill had attended a social event outside of the hospital, where one of the non-staff guests was already experiencing symptoms. Others likely became ill after touching a patient chart that had been handled by another ill colleague.

Standard precautions to guard against infection were also followed, including a mandatory, hospital-wide staff review of basic infection control procedures with an emphasis on more frequent hand washing, accompanied by a thorough washing down of all affected hospital facilities. Even the CCU was closed for 24 hours to allow for a thorough cleaning, with all exposed surfaces getting washed down with bleach solution.

The easiest known way to kill noroviruses is through repeat washing of surfaces using bleach solutions containing at least 10 percent sodium hypochlorite. However, researchers say that even after intense cleaning efforts, norovirus particles have been found to cling to carpet surfaces, elevator buttons, bed rails and dining room tabletops.

To address any virus remaining, all disposable supplies in infected areas were thrown out and replaced with fresh ones, an effort that cost more than $53,000.

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Contact: David March
dmarch1@jhmi.edu
410-955-1534
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Source:Eurekalert

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