By THOMAS P. CALDWELL, LACONIA DAILY SUN
TILTON — The New Hampshire Veterans Home remained in quarantine on Monday, and will continue to suspend visits until further notice, after several residents contracted Norovirus infections.
Program Information Officer Len Stuart said the home’s medical staff confirmed a Norovirus outbreak last week, prompting Commandant Margaret D. LaBrecque to ban visits by family members, friends, and service groups on Friday, and the general quarantine will continue for the duration of the outbreak. The home will allow visits to severely ill residents and those in hospice-type care on a case-by-case basis.
The state Department of Public Health said Noroviruses rarely lead to serious illness, but they are highly contagious and cause nausea, vomiting and stomach cramps. Diarrhea sometimes accompanies the vomiting, and there may be a low-grade fever. Infected people generally recover in a couple of days.
The infection sometimes affects only one or two people, but there can be large outbreaks, especially in long-term care facilities.
The department says that, as of Feb. 5, it had received 16 reports of acute gastroenteritis outbreaks in institutional settings since Dec. 1, 2015, with seven of those outbreaks being reported in the previous week.
The decision by the Veterans Home was made to protect the health of the approximately 200 frail, elderly residents, preventing new infections from outside and avoiding anyone from carrying viruses from inside to outside the facility.
The home did not say how many residents were affected by the virus.
The norovirus can be transmitted through person-to-person contact, consumption of contaminated food and water, airborne droplets of vomit, and contact with contaminated surfaces. The Department of Health said there is no specific treatment, but if people become dehydrated, they may need to drink more liquids or, occasionally, receive intravenous fluids.
Those who come in contact with people suffering from the virus should take precautions including frequently washing their hands with soap and warm water after using the bathroom or changing diapers. The general public can reduce the chance of contracting norovirus by washing hands before food preparation; thoroughly cooking shellfish; washing raw vegetables before eating; and disposing of sewage in a sanitary manner.
Food handlers and health care workers should stay home if they have symptoms of Norovirus.
Other precautions include increasing the frequency of cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces such as water taps, door handles, and toilet or bath rails. Promptly clean areas contaminated with vomit and feces, and then disinfect those areas. Clean soiled carpets and soft furnishings with hot water and detergent, or steam clean; avoid vacuum cleaning.
Health care facilities are advised to restrict or defer admissions to affected units or wards until 96 hours after the resolution of the last case. All group activities also should be suspended, the Department of Health said.