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Norovirus closes unit at Ridge hospital

Registered nurse Maria Pia Fasan preps a flu vaccine needle at the Maple Ridge Public Health Unit on Thursday. The vaccine, which takes 10 to 14 days to take effect, protects against Influenza A, the strain of flu most prevalent now. For more information about getting a flu shot call 604-476-7000 or go to www.HealthLinkBC.ca. - Colleen Flanagan/The News
Registered nurse Maria Pia Fasan preps a flu vaccine needle at the Maple Ridge Public Health Unit on Thursday. The vaccine, which takes 10 to 14 days to take effect, protects against Influenza A, the strain of flu most prevalent now. For more information about getting a flu shot call 604-476-7000 or go to www.HealthLinkBC.ca.
— image credit: Colleen Flanagan/The News

The norovirus that is sweeping across Canada closed a general medicine unit at Ridge Meadows Hospital through the past weekend.

The notorious bug was found to have infected patients here on Saturday, and the unit, which provides acute care, did not re-open until Wednesday.

Patients in the unit stayed, but there were no new admissions. Hospital staff was divided between those who worked in the unit, and may be infected, and the rest who were not allowed in the unit. The unit also received cleaning under the supervision of enhanced infection control staff.

Fraser Health spokesperson Tasleem Juma said the ward only reopened once staff were confident that all transmission of the virus has been stopped.

She said that during this process staff and patients are also reminded about hand hygiene, as well as cough and sneeze etiquette – which is to cough into one's arm.

The norovirus is a hardy contagion, and Juma said it is easily passed by someone coughing into their hand, opening a door, and the next person touching the affected doorknob.

The illness comes on quickly, lasts 24-48 hours, results in vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea, and the symptoms are often severe.

"There will be no doubt in your mind that you're suffering from it," said Juma.

B.C. is dealing with the start of the flu season and the norovirus outbreak simultaneously. Juma said there have been thousands of norovirus cases throughout the province, and the Lower Mainland region in particular.

Ridge Meadows Hospital is the third in the region hit with a norovirus closure. Fraser Health also had to close wards at Royal Columbian and Eagle Ridge (Port Moody) hospitals because of the infection. The former has since re-opened, and the latter is expected to soon.

More than 40 people were quarantined at a residential care facility in Kamloops, and there were outbreaks at five Vancouver daycare centres and other regional facilities.

Because it is a new strain of the bug, which is also called the Norwalk virus, people have limited resistance to it. This strain was first seen in Sydney, Australia in March of 2012.

Because norovirus is so contagious, Fraser Health is recommending that patients not come to the hospital, if it is avoidable. Juma suggested patients visit their general practitioner, or call the Healthlink nurse at 8-1-1 any time of day or night.

Fraser Health said the key is lots of rest at home, and lots of liquids to avoid dehydration. After two days, most patients can resume their normal routine. If their condition worsens, they should see a doctor.

– with files from CTV B.C.

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