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Norovirus Strikes Evanston Retirement Home

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Norovirus

More cases of the norovirus have been reported at Chicago area schools. (Credit: CBS)

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Updated 4/4/2011 at 10:00 p.m.

EVANSTON, Ill. (CBS/STMW) – Health officials say more than 60 residents and staff of an Evanston retirement home became sickened by a norovirus outbreak, but directors of the residence say most of the illness has passed.

The outbreak at the North Shore Hotel, at 1611 Chicago Ave. in Evanston, started March 19 and individuals continue to report symptoms, a release from the Evanston’s Health Department said Monday.

Grace Tupy and her husband are among the residents who caught the virus. They have since rebounded.

“It was about two days of real concern, then after that they were obviously getting better,” Tupy’s daughter, Lynn Benson, told CBS 2′s Pamela Jones.

A spokesperson for the retirement home said Monday the number of ill persons had dwindled to five residents and two employees, who are recovering at home.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, norovirus illness begins suddenly and when infected, individuals may experience stomach cramping, vomiting and diarrhea. The disease that is commonly known as the “stomach flu,” is actually norovirus.

The norovirus can spread rapidly from person to person in crowded, closed places like long-term care facilities, daycare centers, schools, hotels and cruise ships. It’s usually spread through contaminated food or water, and by touching contaminated surfaces.

“In older people, we worry about it more because they can’t fight infection, and they’re more apt to be dehydrated or become dehydrated with the illness,” Dr. Karen Cervenka of Gottlieb Memorial Hospital said.

The virus is easy to catch. It can live on surfaces for as long as 12 days, and can be spread simply by touching a doorknob, a pepper shaker, or a magic marker. The virus can also be spread through food and drunk, or by sharing eating utensils with someone who is sick.

Symptoms usually show up 12 to 48 hours after exposure, and may persist for 1 to 3 days. Anyone who is sick with the norovirus is advised to stay home from school, work or any public gatherings for at least 24 hours after symptoms subside.

There is no vaccine to prevent infection and no drug to treat those who become ill. However, Evanston officials recommend the following tips to prevent further transmission: wash hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds; don’t prepare food if sick; clean and sanitize surfaces; and wash laundry throughout and dry in a machine using heat.

The health department is continuing to collect samples for confirmation of new cases. North Shore Hotel has hired an additional cleaning crew to specifically address cleaning and sanitizing surfaces where the virus can survive and be passed, the release said.

Evanston city health officials are also asking those at any long-term care facilities and retirement community to report unusual cases of gastroenteritis, the symptoms of which include diarrhea, vomiting and stomach cramps.

Last fall, norovirus cases cropped up across the Chicago area, particularly among schoolchildren in the south and northwest suburbs. The virus appeared in 46 clusters in the Cook County suburbs , with clusters defined as groups of two or more people with symptoms in the same school, workplace or nursing home.

Anyone experiencing illnesses they suspect might be the norovirus now should call (847) 866-2962 or e-mail health@cityofevanston.org.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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