Norovirus confirmed at Boise VA, quarantine will continue

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - Norovirus is now confirmed in the Community Living Center at Boise's Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

The building has been in quarantine for close to a week. The quarantine was set to be lifted Thursday, but the VA said it could be several more days before the building is opened back up because someone else started showing symptoms Wednesday afternoon.

The Community Living Center is part of the VA's extended care unit, and was put in quarantine when seven doctors and eight patients started showing symptoms of Norovirus. Everyone was tested, and the tests were sent off to a state lab. While the hospital is still waiting on all of the results, the first test that came back did test positive for the virus.

"It's so common, it really is," Central District Health Department spokeswoman Christine Myron said. "We see it a lot, we hear it a lot."

The CDHD says Norovirus hits hardest in the winter months. The health department says they typically see anywhere from four to 15 outbreaks each year in our area. This year, they've seen six so far. Like the flu, Myron says the virus is very contagious.

"Certainly in a confined space like a hospital, daycare, or long-term care facility, it can spread very quickly because people are in close quarters," she said.

Myron says people usually have symptoms like stomach cramps, diarrhea, fever and vomiting, and thus often don't realize they actually have the virus.

"Once they have those symptoms they chalk it up to the 24-hour bug or something of that nature," Myron said. "Then they often move on. Individuals don't often get tested because it runs its course, they move on in life and don't think about it again."

The health department says symptoms typically last 24 to 48 hours, but that the virus can stay in your system for close to two weeks. It can also stay on surfaces for up to a week. That's why if there is an outbreak, anything that could have been contaminated must be disinfected.

"In closer quarters, a hospital, or daycare certainly where it has the chance of spreading quickly, most places have protocols for cleaning and responding to such situations," Myron said.

The VA told KBOI Thursday they hope to have the Community Living Center back open on Saturday, but say if more cases are confirmed, or if more people start showing symptoms, they could stay in quarantine longer.