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Norovirus outbreak at Spaulding sickens 25

Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in late April. The facility has had a norovirus outbreak.

Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in late April. The facility has had a norovirus outbreak.

Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlestown has been contending with a norovirus outbreak since Tuesday afternoon. The highly contagious gastrointestinal infection has sickened 22 out of 132 inpatients, as well as three staff within the past 24 hours.

“We’re trying to make sure we do the best we can to keep sick patients isolated in their rooms,” said Paula Hereau, vice president of administration at Spaulding. “We’ve had no serious complications so far.”

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Known as the “winter vomiting disease,” the virus also causes severe diarrhea, nausea, and gastrointestinal cramps. It’s usually short-lived and not serious, with symptoms resolving in an average of two days. Treatment usually involves keeping patients in bed and well hydrated.

In January, norovirus made headlines when a Royal Carribean cruise ship had to return to port early after 600 people became infected with the stomach bug.

Hereau said the state Department of Public Health is aware of the hospital outbreak; any sick staff members have been told not to return to work until 72 hours after their symptoms resolve.

Hospital staffers were e-mailed the following action plan on Wednesday morning to help contain spread of the virus.

-- Visitors should wash their hands or use antibacterial lotion before entering a patient’s room.

-- All patients should be assessed by health care providers for signs and symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

-- For all patients with active nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, all therapy sessions should be confined to the patient’s room.

-- Hydrogen peroxide or bleach wipes are to be used to disinfect any non-disposable items coming out of ill patients’ rooms.

-- Only food supplied by the hospital should be given to sick patients (avoid food from home).

-- In staff lounge, avoid sharing food and no food should be left out on tables or counters.

-- Wear a mask if you come into contact with vomit.

-- Use soap and water for hand hygiene when coming out of any patient’s room.

Deborah Kotz writes the Daily Dose blog for boston.com. She can be reached at dkotz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @debkotz2.
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