Norovirus goes through Spokane shelter

A few years ago an outbreak linked to a Denver homeless shelter made it into the barfblog new and notable category. Forty folks who depended on the emergency food were affected by violent foodborne illness symptoms after eating donated turkey. Fourteen ambulances showed up and took those most affected to area hospitals.screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-11-18-29-pm
Volunteering as a food handler at a mission, shelter or soup kitchen and having a good heart and intentions doesn’t automatically lead to safe meals. An understanding of risks and having systems how to reduce them may.
Norovirus can quickly go through a food shelter with many people living in close quarters; according to KREM over 160 people at a Spokane shelter are ill with noro, forcing some to move to a temporary tent city.
Members of Spokane’s homeless population are camping out at the House of Charity to avoid illness after the norovirus broke out on Friday.

Officials said the viral outbreak is under control.

Around 140 healthy people are being forced to sleep outside in an effort to keep them separated from those who are sick. Nearly 60 people who are sick are sleeping inside the facility.

On Saturday night, about 140 people slept in tents outside the House of Charity due to the viral outbreak.

On Saturday morning, around 40 people at the shelter, including patrons and staff, were isolated to one part of the shelter after becoming sick from a norovirus. The number of people showing symptoms of the illness increased to 60 by Sunday afternoon.

Norovirus experts discuss advancing sanitation and diagnostic science while outbreak highlights importance

I hung out at the NoroCORE annual meeting in Atlanta this week and heard about new science on detection, inactivation, prevention and surveillance from a group of collaborators brought together by my friend and colleague Lee-Ann Jaykus. NoroCORE is a collaborative supported by USDA-NIFA through a big $25 million 5-year grant.

Throughout the day, industry, regulatory and consumer stakeholder groups  brought up lots of research, outreach and extension needs: Stuff like how do we get beyond outbreaks being a poor indication of virus disease burden; how should folks who are ill from handling foods prepared for others; how much norovirus starts out as foodborne and how much is secondary person to person transmission; and, how much does cleaning and sanitizing after a noro outbreak vary from routine sanitation.

As the U.S. north east deals with a, uh, nor’easter following superstorm/frankenstorm/hurricane Sandy there are still folks without power who seeking heat and food at shelters.

A norovirus outbreak (maybe foodborne, but probably person-to-person is sweeping through at least one of the shelters. According to the NY Times:

Some men and women returned to the school, on West 49th Street, late Monday night after being bused to other shelters that would not take them in, including the John Jay High School campus in Park Slope, another makeshift evacuation center. It was coping with an outbreak of norovirus, a common and highly contagious intestinal bug. The virus has hit 13 children since Friday, and that building’s reopening as a school  was delayed until Thursday, after all the people were moved out and it underwent a thorough cleaning.
Jay Varma, the deputy commissioner for disease control at the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said the outbreak was not surprising, considering the time of year and the fact that “these are schools and there wasn’t an expectation that they would be long-term facilities for the homeless.”

He said that the virus could not live for long after the school was disinfected and cleaned. “We don’t think there is a risk to students after they get back to school,” he said.
The zeal for sanitizing was strong at Graphic Arts, where reports of floors used as toilets spurred outrage and alarm. But there, as at other evacuation centers being partially or completely cleared for students, the evacuees said they had no better options. And they offered another perspective on the bathroom problems.

“Some are disabled and seniors,” said John Lewis, a man with an unkempt gray beard who said he worked in the kitchen of a private Hasidic school in Brooklyn before problems with his landlord left him living on the  streets in Chelsea.  “Some are not able to move fast enough to make it to the toilet. Some couldn’t make it to the third floor,” where the only bathroom available to the men was located. It had one working toilet.