A number of residents and workers in Nevada County nursing homes have been exposed to norovirus, a highly contagious viral illness common to group settings.
The disease, which causes adverse gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, is commonly referred to as the “stomach flu,” which is incorrect as the viral strain is not related to influenza.
“It’s a fairly mild disease,” said Dr. Ken Cutler, public health officer of Nevada County. “There have been no hospitalizations.”
The lack of serious cases is “pretty remarkable,” given that many of the afflicted are elderly living at the skilled nursing facilities with some residents in their 80s and 90s, Cutler said.
Some nurses have also exhibited symptoms of the disease. As of Thursday, a total of 106 individuals were affected by the illness.
“Norovirus outbreaks are unfortunately quite common in certain group settings like cruise ships, vacation spots and schools,” Cutler said. “Nursing facilities are definitely on that list and the numbers infected tend to be large.”
The outbreak was first reported Feb. 5, with the last report recorded March 18. Most of the individuals had a mild version of the illness and recovered in one to two days, Cutler said.
The nursing facilities’ efforts at limiting the spread of norovirus helped lead to resolution of the outbreak at each of the facilities, according to the weekly memo distributed by County Executive Officer Rick Haffey. Interventions included posting signs at the facilities, postponing new admissions, educating visitors and curtailing group activities.
The norovirus illness is the chief cause of gastroenteritis, characterized by the inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 21 million cases of acute gastroenteritis in the United States are caused by norovirus each year.
Since the last report, the Nevada County Department of Public Health has reported four more cases of pertussis, bringing the total number of cases to 16.
“The outbreak has continued as anticipated,” Cutler said. “There have been no hospitalizations.”
Young infants are the most susceptible to the disease commonly known as whooping cough, but there have been no reported cases of afflicted babies in Nevada County.
An outbreak typically lasts for weeks to months, Cutler said.
A healthy county
For the second year in a row, Nevada County ranked in the top 10 of healthiest California counties. This ranking is based on morbidity, health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment. For information visit http://countyhealthrankings.org.