Batavia Nursing Home Norovirus Outbreak

A new outbreak of the norovirus has occurred at Heritage Woods Assisted Living Facility in Batavia, IL, leaving about 40 residents ill as a result. Norovirus, often associated with cruise ships for its tendency to spread through the densely populated spaces, is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis – also known as a stomach bug – in the United States, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Infection Control in Nursing Homes
Norovirus is extremely contagious. It is a tough virus that can live without a host for up to four weeks, and it can live in an infected person’s stool for more than two weeks. Touching anything that an infected person has touched risks the spread of the virus. Clothes worn by an infected person may carry the virus. Any food served without cooking or any food handled by an infected person may spread the virus. Further, even infected people who have recovered may still spread the virus up to 3 days after recovery. Once infected, a person’s stomach and/or intestines become inflamed, causing abdominal pains, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. Because norovirus is not caused by just one virus – it is actually a group of related viruses belonging to the Calicivirdae family – a person may get norovirus many times in his or her life.

According to the CDC, norovirus causes somewhere between 19 and 21 million illnesses per year, and it contributes somewhere between 56,000 and 71,000 hospital visits to the American total each year. On average, norovirus is the cause of 570-800 deaths each year in the United States.

The best way to prevent norovirus is through hand-washing and general cleanliness. There is no medicine or vaccine currently available that specifically treats norovirus, but most people recover simply by treating their symptoms and playing the waiting game. The name of this game is hydration. Because the virus causes vomiting and diarrhea, people with the virus will need to replace the fluids they are losing. Patients who do not combat the dehydrative effects of norovirus could quickly find themselves hospitalized.

While norovirus is typically an event from which most people will recover without too much complication, in the cases of the elderly, norovirus can be extremely dangerous. The deaths estimated by the CDC are largely made up of young children and the elderly, but they are also more common in the years when new strains of the virus are going around. To combat the virus, there is simply no substitute for soap and water. Hand-washing is an imperative, especially before food preparation and after using the toilet. Less generally known is that alcohol-based hand sanitizers, such as Purell, do not kill norovirus, and, thus, will not fully substitute for soap and water. Cleanliness in the bathroom is also a must. Toilets, door handles, and light switches are particular areas for concern. Finally, clothing and bedding are often overlooked as very contaminated areas – be sure to wash linens and clothing thoroughly and in hot water, particularly if they’ve been soiled.

If you notice that these steps are not being taken around your facility or that of a loved one, there could be a considerable risk of infection. If you believe that you or a loved one has received a preventable infection while in the care of a nursing home or other assisted living facility, you may have a claim. Please feel free to contact an experienced attorney at Levin & Perconti today.

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