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Vancouver Coastal Health spokesperson and environmental health inspector, Claudie Kurzac says that while it has yet to be confirmed with laboratory analysis, the symptoms of a recent outbreak of sudden-onset vomiting and diarrhea all point to norovirus.
Kurzac says, “We received a report from the hotel, that there were staff and guests with a gastrointestinal illness.”
She says the hotel closed all food services and emptied out all guest rooms, going above and beyond to be sure this outbreak is stopped in its tracks.
While Kurzac says there are no firm numbers, the outbreak affected dozens of people at a local Richmond hotel, The Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel on Westminster Highway.
When asked if the hotel did anything wrong, Kurzac was clear it had not. In fact, when asked she said, “What they did right was they shut down their food services immediately. They also shut down the rest of the hotel which is pretty unusual but I think probably a good move. They started deep cleaning and sanitising to make sure rooms were safe for all future guests.”
“The Sheraton is using companies familiar with deep cleaning and sanitizing on cruise ships after similar outbreaks,” she says.
“Also, at the Hilton, there was a report of illness in a food handler, so they shut all food service,” says Kurzac. This resulted in the voluntary closing the restaurant where the illness occurred.
Now, after special cleaning, the Hilton Vancouver Airport Hotel eating establishment has been cleared to reopen.
Kurzac is clear that once the special cleaning and sanitising crews finish at the Sheraton, it too will be open and pose no health risk.
“There will be absolutely no reason not to go there,” says Kurzac.
There is something the public can do to help because this has yet to have been confirmed as norovirus.
“We are trying to interview all ill people to get details from them so we can get stool samples from them to confirm it is norovirus.We still need specimens from people because we can find evidence in the stool sample.”
Kurzac says the virus persists in the feces for a while so even if you are better, it is worth calling the health unit at 604-233-3147 if you might have had this bug.
If you think you have or had norovirus, Kurzac stresses the need to wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet. While it can be spread through the air, the virus often gets onto surfaces from hands not washed well enough when someone is ill.
She says that most people stop being contagious48 hours afterthey stop vomiting and their diarrheastops, she advises food handlers to wait an extra few days before going back to work, just to be sure they don’t spread the virus.
While there are usually no long-term problems from this virus, Kurzac says, “There are the usual groups who are most vulnerable the very young, the very old, or those who are immune compromised.”
She says one of the biggest problems for anyone who get this virus is dehydration because people lose liquids quite quickly through vomiting and loose stools.
“So stay hydrated,” Kurzac says.
When asked where did this outbreak come from, Kurzac says, “Norovirus is circulating all the time in the community. It’s just when it pops up in the community that it gets noticed. We’ll probably never will know the original source.”