Greymouth community infected by norovirus

There has been an outbreak of the highly infectious gastro-intestinal norovirus in parts of the Greymouth community, the West Coast District Health Board says.
Public health officer Vern Newcombe said today lab tests had confirmed the outbreak at the Kowhai Manor Rest Home in Greymouth. DHB spokesman Bryan Jamieson told NZPA that about half of the residents of the rest home had been infected.

Kowhai Manor has been locked down since Friday as a precaution after some residents and staff fell ill. As of yesterday, 12 of the 24 residents were sick and a number of staff members were experiencing symptoms. The hospital wing was clear of the viral sickness yesterday.

Mr Jamieson said the virus was highly infectious and could be readily spread by people simply coming into contact with surfaces that have been exposed to the virus.

The most obvious signs that a person had been infected with the virus were a rapid onset of the illness with vomiting and diarrhoea, although some people might experience less severe signs.

Mr Jamieson advised people who came down with the illness to stayat home until they had been clear of the signs and symptoms of the norovirus infection for 48 hours.

"At this time very high standards of personal hygiene are needed to avoid spreading the ailment to others living in the home."

Hospitals on the West Coast were particularly mindful of the effects that an outbreak could have on patients and staff, Mr Jamieson said.

"With that in mind, people are requested to not visit the hospital if they have experienced diarrhoea or vomiting in the previous 48 hours.

"This includes non-urgent outpatient appointments and non-urgent surgery. We will be happy to reschedule these appointments for those affected.

The annual rest home games, due to be held tomorrow in Greymouth, have been postponed until next month due to the virus. Kowhai Manor manager Charlotte Berry could not be contacted today.

However, no admissions were being accepted and strict visitor conditions were in place. Pharmacy supplies were being dropped off at the front door.

The restrictions would remain in place until the situation was under control. Mr Newcombe said the outbreak at Kowhai Manor signalled norovirus was out in the wider community.

He had not heard of any other outbreaks around the West Coast yet, "although that it is not to say there are not".

Otago District Health Board said yesterday that since August 1, 47 patients and 79 staff had been infected by the virus.

The DHB continued to have cases of suspected norovirus across both Dunedin and Wakari Hospitals.

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