Norovirus strikes in rest homes

By Mike Dinsdale

A new strain of the the nasty stomach bug norovirus has struck several rest homes around Northland, but it's not as virulent as the type linked to the deaths of two elderly Northlanders last year.

Northland District Health Board medical officer of health Jonathan Jarman said a number of rest homes in Northland have either experienced or are still experiencing outbreaks of norovirus. "There is a new strain of norovirus called the 2012 Sydney strain which is different from the strain that caused the outbreaks in Northland last year. The symptoms between the two strains appear to be slightly different," Dr Jarman said.

"The 2012 Sydney strain doesn't seem to be as severe but vomiting is one of the main symptoms."

He said since August seven Northland rest homes have had outbreaks of gastroenteritis caused by norovirus. Currently managing outbreaks are Radius Potter Home (24 residents unwell), Jane Mander Retirement Village (21 residents unwell) and Parahaki Court Rest Home (seven residents unwell).

Dr Jarman said all rest homes have action plans when they get residents or staff with gastroenteritis.

Unwell residents are asked to stay in their rooms and sick staff are sent home until they have recovered.

"It would be best if people did not visit friends or family at these three rest homes until the outbreaks are over," he said.

Nurses who managed outbreaks last year say that there appears to be a difference in the severity of illness from this year's Sydney strain.

A norovirus outbreak last year affected 288 people in six Northland rest homes and was linked to the deaths of two elderly residents. The affected rest homes are restricting access to visitors until the outbreaks are contained.

Dr Jarman said norovirus is a really infectious bug and one of the best ways to prevent spread is thoroughly washing and drying your hands.

People should see a doctor if vomiting is severe, the illness does not get better after 1-2 days, or if they are worried.

- Northern Advocate

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