The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

March 13, 2014

4 die at vets home after virus outbreak

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A veterans' home in Minneapolis has put new admissions on hold after a norovirus outbreak that may have been a factor in the deaths of four residents, a Minnesota Department of Veteran Affairs spokeswoman said Thursday.

So far the virus has not been positively linked to the deaths at Minneapolis Veterans Home since March 7, department spokeswoman Anna Lewicki Long said Thursday. They all had other complications, she said.

At least one resident was hospitalized due to the virus, she said. About 20 employees have called in sick since March 7 with some sort of stomach virus, she said.

Long said samples have been sent to state health officials for testing. The virus is an annual issue in the wider community, particularly in nursing homes, hospitals and care facilities, she said.

Their other homes have not been hit, Long said.

Norovirus — once known as Norwalk virus — is highly contagious. It can be picked up from an infected person, contaminated food or water or by touching contaminated surfaces. Sometimes mistaken for the stomach flu, the virus causes bouts of vomiting and diarrhea for a few days.

Long said they are having employees wash their hands more often, reviewing sanitation procedures for staff, limiting visitation and group activities, stopping volunteers from coming in and having many residents stay in their rooms for meals.

The Minnesota Department of Health told the Star Tribune that the Minneapolis home reported a suspected outbreak of norovirus last week involving eight residents in a 30-person unit and then reported back to say the illnesses included a second unit. It had no information on the number of employees who might have been affected.

The health department had no information on the deaths.

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