Assisted living facility in Chesterfield battles norovirus

Symptoms of the norovirus begin 12-48 hours after first exposure (Source: NBC12)
Symptoms of the norovirus begin 12-48 hours after first exposure (Source: NBC12)
Published: Apr. 3, 2018 at 3:39 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 3, 2018 at 6:49 PM EDT
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CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - The Virginia Department of Health is investigating a large case of the norovirus infection at a Bon Air independent and assisted living facility.

Executive Director Christy Boatwright confirmed Tuesday her facility, The Crossings at Bon Air, is dealing with a huge case of the contagious virus.

A family member says at least 45 residents and 10 staff members had the virus as of March 26.

"The Crossings at Bon Air first detected the potential for the norovirus on Tuesday afternoon 3/20/18 into Wednesday morning 3/21/18," Boatwright said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. "At that time in short order, approximately 10 residents complained of stomach virus symptoms."

"[Patients] are very miserable," said Dr. Melissa Aquilo, with Patient First Medical Center. "It's a very unpleasant experience to go through."

Aquilo has seen several patients who had the norovirus. While non of them were from The Crossings at Bon Air recently, she said the symptoms tend to be pretty severe.

"Watery diarrhea, fevers, vomiting, and general body aches and misery," Aquilo said.

The Department of Health was notified March 22 with the current status and symptoms, Boatwright said.

The Director of the Chesterfield Health District, Dr. Alexander Samuel released the following statement regarding the situation:

We're participating in a routine investigation as we do with all facilities that report a norovirus outbreak.  This basically means doing an assessment of infection control practices and providing recommendations that would help stop the spread of noro, which is a common occurrence this time of year.  The facility has been cooperating and has incorporated our recommendations.

Aquilo said the symptoms generally last 48-72 hours, but can easily transfer to other people because of how contagious it is.

"We'll see it commonly outbreak in nursing facilities, restaurants, day care centers," she said.

At its peak, more than 70 residents and employees had symptoms relating to the norovirus, according to a statement.

"It is very important to be transparent in these issues to seek cooperation with our preventative protocols, so in the same week, we sent letters to families to make them aware of the potential outbreak," Boatwright said. "Our protocols include voluntary restrictions in which our residents and families have been exceptionally cooperative in participating."

Some of those restrictions included notices on the doors for all residents to keep them updated, and emails sent to residents and families.

"We have signs posted recommending no visitors," Boatwright added.

"There's not a medicine that's going to cure the virus," Aquilo said. "It does need to run its course. You just have to hydrate through it so you don't get into trouble."

One way to avoid getting the virus is to wash your hands with soap and water. Aquilo said antibacterial and disinfectants won't work.

"Bleach will work, [on surfaces]," she said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Boatwright said the facility was aware of less than five active or potential cases.

There have been no known deaths related to the norovirus.

The facility is also continuing with the proper cleaning protocols.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the virus can cause a sudden onset of severe vomiting and diarrhea. It is commonly spread through food or water that is contaminated during preparation or contaminated surfaces. Doctors said you can also be infected through close contact with an infected person.

Signs and symptoms usually begin 12 to 48 hours after first exposure and can last one to three days.

However, some people - especially children and older adults with compromised immune systems - the norovirus infection can cause severe dehydration, malnutrition and even death, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The norovirus infection occurs most frequently in closed and crowded areas such as hospitals, nursing homes, child care centers, schools and cruise ships.

Full statement from The Crossings:

Karina Bolster is following this story and will have updates on 12News at 5 and 6.

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