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Norovirus outbreak over at St. Jude Care Center

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POSTED February 5, 2013 1:01 a.m.

St. Jude Care Center in Manteca is again open to visitors starting today following a nearly two-week Norovirus outbreak.

The announcement was made Monday by Ginger Wick, program manager for Communicable Diseases and Tuberculosis with the San Joaquin County Public Health Department.

However, she qualified that the visitor restrictions will be lifted today “if they have no new cases.” The affected facility is deemed safe to reopen if no new infection case has been reported in the last four days, or 96 hours.

Visiting restrictions are still in effect in the other county locations where the Norovirus outbreak occurred.

“We may be down to three or four at the moment,” she said, down from five to six group-living facilities last week.

The county monitors the affected facilities by visiting the locations “at least once or twice (during the outbreak) to monitor what’s happening,” and to see if they are getting the situation under control, she said.

Monitoring is also done via telephone.

“We call the employees to find out what their symptoms are (if they are sick) and then we clear them to go back to work as they meet the criteria that we had set up. The facility also reports to us any new cases in employee or resident, and they monitor the residents for us,” Wick said.



Other Norovirus outbreaks could happen in coming days

The ongoing Norovirus outbreak in the county is “not worse than a normal year. We’ll have to see as times goes on how many outbreaks we’re going to have, but it seems pretty normal,” she said of the number of locations reported this winter.

“We always have outbreaks in the county every year. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we get (other) reports this week or next month. It will be ongoing, but not from these facilities that we’re working with right now,” she said. “It can happen anytime, but mostly in the winter. There’s no real explanation as to why.”

“It’s not unusual for diseases to be seasonally associated,” she added.

Since a Norovirus outbreak is something that they expect to happen at this time of the year, “every fall we get ready. Our nurses are trained. They know how to deal with an outbreak,” Wick said.

And because it can happen any time, the county has information packets ready “that we send out to people” and to various care facilities to stem any further spread of the virus.

“We give them methods to stop the infection or transmission of the infection. That’s why we go out and initiate infection-control measures at the facilities. That’s why we close down the dining room, why we require employees to wear gowns, masks and gloves. All of that is to prevent transmission of the disease,” Wick explained.

Visitors to the 99-bed St. Jude Care Center, formerly known as Palm Haven on East North Street in Manteca, have been restricted since the Norovirus outbreak was reported on Jan 23.

“We just discourage unnecessary visiting at that time,” Wick said, although exceptions are given to visitors whose relatives are critically ill. In those cases, the facilities are required to help those visitors to put on protective clothing.

She did not disclose the number of patients affected by the Norovirus at St. Jude saying this information is confidential. However, Wick said they are required to report these statistics to the state.

The county health department has also confirmed that the culprit that caused the outbreak at St. Jude and at about half-dozen group-living facilities throughout the county was indeed the highly contagious Norovirus.

Wick also clarified that the outbreak that occurred at Bethany Home in Ripon which also put restrictions on visitors was not one associated with the Norovirus but was respiratory in nature.

“It is not over yet,” Wick said of the respiratory outbreak happening at Bethany Home.

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