During the past week, several units at Rutland Regional Medical Center have been placed under “precautions” because of norovirus.
Dr. John Cotter, an infection control specialist, said all the precautions had been lifted Tuesday, and he distinguished between them and a quarantine. Also, he said there had been no identified cases of norovirus being transmitted within the hospital.
Norovirus in one of the most common causes of gastroenteritis, with symptoms including nausea, vomiting, watery diarrhea, low-grade fever, fatigue and headache. The virus is highly contagious with an incubation period of 24 to 48 hours.
“When any patients come in with (certain symptoms), we will put people under precautions,” Cotter said. “The one unit we saw out-cases in initially, we decided to place every patient in that unit under precautions.”
Those precautions include having everyone coming into the unit wear a gown, gloves and face mask.
The protective clothing is discarded in a special receptacle upon departure from the unit, and the person must carefully wash his or her hands. Cotter said visitors are still allowed in and out of the unit — they just have to follow the precautions.
“Every entry and exit to the room is made under these precautions,” he said.
Cutter said the hospital wound up instituting precautions in the general medical unit, the intensive-care unit, the pediatric intensive-care unit and the women and families unit.
“We know this can spread through a unit very quickly,” he said. “We had a total of six cases, but we haven’t had a positive case confirmed since the 10th.”
Cutter said this was the first time in his three years at RRMC that precautions have been ordered for an entire unit, but he has seen it happen at other institutions, including during a pertussis outbreak at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. He said the precautions protect other patients, visitors and hospital staff.
“We’re being very cautious and very diligent,” he said.
Meanwhile, the hospital is asking the public to be aware of the apparent prevalence of the norovirus in the area. Children or elderly people showing symptoms should seek medical attention, according to the hospital, as should those with bloody diarrhea, altered mental states, light-headedness, dizziness or concerns about dehydration.
As preventive measures, people are advised to wash hands often with soap and water — especially after using the toilet or changing diapers; eating, preparing or handling food; and before giving themselves or someone else medicine.
Any contaminated surfaces should be disinfected with a mixture of 5 to 25 tablespoons of household bleach per gallon of water.
People with the virus should stay home when sick and for two days after symptoms resolve.