Eleven people still ill after norovirus outbreak at B.C. care home

VICTORIA – A fast-spreading norovirus outbreak that sickened 150 and could be linked to nine deaths may be coming to an end at a Victoria, B.C., seniors’ home, the Vancouver Island Health Authority said Wednesday.

The virus infected 100 residents and 50 staff members at Selkirk Place since the outbreak began on July 11.

While nine people have also died since then and norovirus may have been a contributing factor, the health authority said the causes of deaths still have to be determined.

“The residents are generally quite elderly, and frail, and have multiple health conditions,” spokeswoman Sarah Plank said in a phone interview. “So they’re certainly at risk from it, but generally people don’t die of norovirus, but rather with norovirus.”

Noroviruses are part of a group of viruses that cause severe vomiting and diarrhea. While it is common in the summertime, and in long-term care homes, Plank said the outbreak at Selkirk Place was unusually wide-spreading. Forty people became ill within 24 hours of the first case, she said.

“Usually if it’s just one or two cases, you can confine it, you isolate the patients and you keep them to their own floor so you can contain the outbreak to just one floor or one unit,” she said.

“But in this one, because there was such a large number of people who became ill so quickly, it spread to more people than we would normally see.”

Plank said staff at Selkirk Place did everything they could to control the outbreak, including isolating sick residents in their rooms, doing additional cleaning, restricting visitors, rescheduling hospital visits, and allowing only healthy residents to dine in common areas.

Plank said she believes the outbreak has peaked, as the number of new cases has decreased.

However, officials have not been able to identify where the virus likely came from, she said.

“Norovirus is out in the community all the time,” she said. “We know who the first case was, but we don’t know what the source of it was.”

–By Vivian Luk in Vancouver