Health District investigating stomach illness at House of Charit - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Health District investigating stomach illness at House of Charity

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Spokane Regional Health District and its partners report they are aware of increased stomach illness among several patrons associated with the House of Charity shelter. Over the weekend 12 people with nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting were evaluated at area hospitals. These symptoms are consistent with norovirus, but health officials still await lab test results to confirm the diagnosis.

Individuals can get norovirus from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. The risk to the general public of acquiring this stomach illness from House of Charity patrons is considered very low.

The health district is working with House of Charity staff to identify potential sources, and staff have reinforced existing policies and instituted additional health measures including disinfecting the entire shelter, particularly its portable restrooms, which are in use while the indoor facilities are being remodeled.

“When we’re dealing with a susceptible population like the homeless, it is critical that we work closely with our medical and community partners to secure care for our sick patrons and work through a number of other important steps to stem transmission. We’re grateful for the support we have in this community in working to protect the health of our homeless population,” said House of Charity Director Rob McCann.

Spokane Regional Health District epidemiologists are following standard procedures in investigating cases, but it is uncommon to discover the source of such an outbreak. Each year, the health district investigates dozens of intestinal illness outbreaks in Spokane County, many of which are caused by norovirus. The illness can spread quickly in closed places like childcare centers, nursing homes, schools, shelters, and cruise ships. Most norovirus outbreaks occur from November to April in the United States.

Symptoms usually begin 24 to 48 hours after ingestion of the virus, and last 1 or 2 days. However, during that brief period, people can feel very ill. Other than drinking liquids to prevent dehydration, there is no specific treatment for norovirus infection. 

Public health officials continue to emphasize individual hygiene, including carefully and thoroughly washing hands with soap and water. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used in addition to hand washing.

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