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MailTribune.com
  • Norovirus outbreak sickens 220

    Staff scrubs down SORCC after illness struck last week
  • WHITE CITY — Authorities at the Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics believe they are gaining the upper hand on a norovirus outbreak that has sickened more than 200 people there.
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  • WHITE CITY — Authorities at the Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics believe they are gaining the upper hand on a norovirus outbreak that has sickened more than 200 people there.
    Over the weekend, only one new case of the highly contagious gastrointestinal infection was diagnosed at the closed facility, and one man was hospitalized for dehydration, SORCC spokeswoman Rhonda Haney said Monday.
    Since the virus first hit the facility hard on March 1, 156 patients and 64 staff members have been diagnosed with it. Seventeen were treated at local hospitals for dehydration and returned to SORCC.
    "We've been working very hard and very diligently to get the place scrubbed down," Haney said. "I've got bleach stains on my clothes right now from trying to get this under control."
    Resident passes were canceled for Monday to help curb new infections, Haney said. SORCC officials plan to re-evaluate Thursday whether to re-open, she said.
    "What we're doing is working, but we don't want to have another outbreak," she said. "We don't want to rush anything."
    Also known as the "winter vomiting disease," norovirus causes severe diarrhea, nausea and stomach cramps, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
    Norovirus is found in the vomit and stool of those infected and can be spread through contaminated food and drink, person-to-person contact and through the air, according to the CDC.
    The airborne nature of the virus means it can spread quickly and easily, especially in places where many people share living quarters, such as cruise ships, barracks and nursing homes, said Dr. Jim Shames, medical director for Jackson County Health and Human Services.
    "Once you have your first case, it's not unusual for the numbers to get very large very quickly," Shames said. "But it's generally fairly short-lived and mortalities are fairly low."
    Norovirus illness typically subsides within three days, but it can result in death, especially in the cases of young children, elderly adults and people with pre-existing health conditions, according to the CDC.
    Haney said SORCC officials do not know the cause of the current outbreak and likely will never discover the source.
    Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.
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