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

e the norovirus outbreak was citywide, staff from outside of JHH were not allowed to work on site, while Hopkins staff, in turn, were banned from working at other facilities. Even visitors to the Hospital were asked screening questions to identify stomach problems and, if present, were told not to see patients for 72 hours. Staff working on units hit by the outbreak wore gowns and gloves to guard against unwittingly picking up or spreading the disease. All group meals or shared-food events were banned inside the Hospital.

After three months of intense efforts to prevent the spread of infection, new infections stopped by early May 2004. The outbreak was deemed to be over, and affected units returned to normal activity.

The researchers review showed that the number of patients infected, or so-called attack rate of the virus, in the CCU was low, at 5 percent (seven patients out of 133), but was notably higher for health care workers, at 30 percent (29 out of 97). The attack rate numbers were higher for psychiatry services, at 17 percent for patients (39 out of 233) and 38 percent for staff (76 out of 200).

Everyone infected experienced diarrhea or vomiting, while some others experienced such symptoms as chills and muscle aches.

Calculations of costs associated with the cleanup included expenses for cleaning supplies ($96,000), staff sick leave and overtime ($89,000), plus lost revenue from closing the units and echocardiogram laboratory to new patients ($418,000). Indeed, nearly 460 hours of sick leave were used by staff on the CCU, 138 hours in the echocardiogram lab, and more than 2,000 hours in psychiatry services.

Expenses not taken into account were those associated with other areas of the hospital where few cases were reported and no restrictions were placed on the unit. Costs incurred outside of main units were not included in this estimate because researchers were not certain that the infection had indeed
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Contact: David March
dmarch1@jhmi.edu
410-955-1534
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Source:Eurekalert

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