Saturday, April 26, 2008

Norovirus Identified as Cause of GI Outbreak at Eloy Detention Center

     ELOY- Specimens tested at the Arizona State Public Health Laboratory on April 24th have confirmed norovirus as the cause of an outbreak currently occurring at the Eloy Detention Center. 

     Over 300 detainees have become ill so far with symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.  Pinal County Public Health and Environmental Health officials are working with officials at the Eloy Detention Center to manage spread of the infection in the facility.  At this point no cases have had serious illness or needed to be hospitalized.      

     Norovirus, which causes what is commonly referred to as "stomach flu" or "winter vomiting disease" typically causes symptoms such as low grade fever, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.  Symptoms usually resolve in 1-3 days. 

     Norovirus is spread through the fecal-oral route from person to person, often involving contaminated environmental surfaces such as door or sink handles.  Health officials are still investigating the source of the norovirus outbreak.

     While norovirus is more common during the colder months, it is found year round in Arizona and is a common cause of outbreaks associated with institutional settings, schools, daycares, cruise ships, and other environments where people are in close proximity to one another. 

     Norovirus is the most common documented cause of outbreaks in Arizona.  It is typical in these settings to see high percentages of residents and employees become ill until rigorous disinfection practices are implemented. 

     "No institutional setting is immune to this," said Tom Schryer, Director, Pinal County Public Health.  "One case of this very common illness brought into an institutional setting is enough to cause an explosion of secondary cases.  We appreciate the cooperation from officials with the Corrections Corporation of America to help identify this outbreak of norovirus."

     The best way to protect yourself from infection of norovirus and many other communicable diseases is to practice good hygiene including washing hands multiple times a day. 

     For more information about norovirus or influenza call the Pinal County Public Health Services District at (520) 866-7347, or the Arizona Department of Health Services at (602) 364-3676.