CARY – A norovirus outbreak has been reported after a spate of elderly residents and staff members at Three Oaks Assisted Living in Cary became ill, according to the McHenry County Department of Health.
At least 30 cases of norovirus, which is highly contagious, have been confirmed, and five people from the facility at 1055 Silver Lake Road have been hospitalized, according to the department. The Department of Health learned of the outbreak last week.
McHenry County public health administrator Michael Hill said the facility has been taking steps to prevent the norovirus from spreading.
“It happens a lot in the winter,” Hill said. “It takes one person from the outside touching somebody, and it’s off and running. It’s very communicable, and it just runs through people.”
Unlike influenza, which is an upper-respiratory virus, noroviruses generally are the culprit that causes what is referred to as “stomach flu.” It affects the intestinal tract and causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms usually last between 24 and 48 hours.
Norovirus is common but can be fatal in rare cases, particularly when a person has a compromised immune system. The illness cannot be treated with antibiotics.
Three Oaks administrators have taken measures to stop the disease from spreading. Until the virus leaves the facility, residents are barred from group activities and group dining, said Kathleen MacDonald, senior vice president of marketing for Spectrum Retirement, the company that owns Three Oaks.
Polling for the March 20 primary had been scheduled to run at Three Oaks from March 5 to 10, but McHenry County Clerk Mary McClellan has canceled the operation there until the virus clears the facility.
“I don’t want it to spread,” McClellan said.
To prevent the spread of norovirus, the MCDH recommends:
• Frequent hand-washing, especially after using the toilet and before eating and preparing food.
• Thorough cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch areas, such as phones, railings and tables using a bleach-based household disinfectant
• Immediately removing and washing clothing or linens that might be contaminated with diarrhea or vomit by using hot water and soap.
For information on norovirus, visit www.cdc.gov.