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Virus strikes

Norovirus reported at Oswego Place
by: internet photoINTERNET PHOTO / www.sph.emory.edu/moelab/Projects-Assay.htm, 
A three-dimensional structural view of the noro-virus.

Clackamas County Health officials believe that an outbreak of norovirus, which hit the Oswego Place Assisted Living Center, has been all but contained.

After the virus affected nearly 30 residents and staff members last week, only one new case was reported over the weekend when another staff member reported symptoms. Health officials are continuing to carefully monitor the situation.

'We like to have about six days with no new cases reported. That gives it two incubation phases. But it looks like we're definitely on the tail end of the bell curve,' said Steve Dahl, Clackamas County Heath Department communicable disease manager.

The virus spread quickly late last week and, at its highest point, had infected more than half of the staff and residents at the facility. Norovirus symptoms typically include stomach cramps, fever and muscle aches. It can be particularly serious for the young children or the elderly.

'It's a mild virus for most people but the dehydration can be dangerous for the elderly, especially if they have other ailments,' Dahl said.

The outbreak was treated solely within the assisted living center and none of the facilities residents had symptoms severe enough to require a hospital visit.

'We took proactive measures and the county was very helpful getting us disinfectant to treat the virus,' said Judy Talley, an employee and spokesman of the assisted living center.

'Fortunately none of these cases were too serious but we're still in contact (with the facility) on a daily basis and keeping close surveillance,' Dahl said.

Officials believe that the Norovirus was spread on a person-to-person basis, as opposed to being spread by food shared by the residents. For those who were infected with the virus, it is estimated that it may take 72 hours to recover. During that time, contact with others was limited and workers were encouraged to continuously wash their hands.

The Norovirus is a fairly common ailment that often breaks out in senior centers, cruise ships or other areas where a large number of people are closely confined. Outbreaks are more common during the winter.

'This is the time of year when people aren't going outside as much and windows are closed so the virus seems to be seasonal,' Dahl said.

A number of more widespread outbreaks were also reported last week in Clark County, Wash.

Officials expect that the outbreak will be completely contained by later this week.

'This was a pretty good outcome and I think we're at the end of it. If we can get to it early enough, we're generally very successful in containing it,' Dahl said.

Talley agreed, and hopes that the facility's residents will all be fully recovered in a few days.

'We have a few residents still recovering but we're over the hump,' she said.