According to charitable organizations in Nanaimo, there have been cases of norovirus. Norovirus, also known as the stomach flu, sees people vomiting and suffering from upset stomach and diarrhea. (Pixabay photo)

Nanaimo charitable groups pare down services due to norovirus

VIHA medical health officer says norovirus not rare, have been occurrences in downtown Nanaimo

Charitable organizations dealing with vulnerable people in Nanaimo have taken measures after seeing norovirus-like symptoms at their facilities.

Noroviruses, Norwalk virus, or the stomach flu, see symptoms including upset stomach, vomiting, fever and diarrhea and can be spread from person to person from contaminated food and water, according to the B.C. Ministry of Health website.

Gord Fuller, Nanaimo 7-10 Club president, said his group’s Fitzwilliam Street site, which serves breakfast to the needy, saw limited service over the last few days and that staff experienced symptoms.

“Last Friday, someone had come in and they projectile vomited down the hallway,” said Fuller. “Staff were cleaning it and volunteers were around and nothing was really thought of it. Sunday, I ended up getting a phone call from staff saying that they and others were affected by the virus, which we believe is norovirus … I had heard about it on the weekend, but hadn’t associated it with the 7-10 Club at that point.”

Fuller said the 7-10 Club site closed one day, so the entire facility could be sanitized and the site re-opened Thursday on a full-time basis, said Fuller.

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Dr. Paul Hasselback, Vancouver Island Health Authority regional medical health officer, said norovirus occurrences at this time of year aren’t rare and there have been reported cases in Nanaimo, particularly in the downtown core.

“Those locations, which include some shelters and some environments where there are nutritional support programs, feeding areas, some of their staff have been affected to the point they’ve actually pared back some of their services and we’re aware of that,” said Hasselback. “We’re trying to stay in touch through this time period. It’s not a huge number of people, but it’s certainly enough that most people seem to be aware that we’re seeing this increase in people who have a vomiting and abnormal [gastrointestinal] sort of illness in the area, so that’s something that seems to be fairly well-known amongst this group.”

Jamie Gripich, spokesman for Pacifica Housing Advisory Association, which runs Labieux Road supportive housing among others, said there have been no norovirus instances at its facilities, but precautions are being taken.

“While we have no Norwalk in any of our buildings … what we’ve done is we’re stepping up all of our preventative measures right across the board, establishing more hand sanitation stations, making more wipes available, making sure we’re briefing people, not only our staff, but also people in the building, especially in Pacifica Seniors’ Lodge, the importance of hand-washing and that sort of thing,” said Gripich. “Letting staff know that they’re not supposed to come on site, should they be off site at home, and have any symptoms.”

Patricia Mamic, spokesperson for Salvation Army B.C., said there were instances of norovirus at Nanaimo facilities, including the New Hope Centre downtown. The centre was subsequently temporarily shut down, sanitized, as per procedures with VIHA. The centre will re-open Friday, business as usual, on the condition people properly wash their hands.

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