More than 40 residents were quarantined at Ridgeview Lodge on Thursday after an outbreak of norovirus at the residential care facility in Brocklehurst.
The second outbreak to hit a Kamloops residential care facility this season comes amid a spike in B.C. cases this winter attributed to a new strain of the highly contagious gastro-intestinal virus.
Nearly two-dozen staff members and 22 residents were segregated after the virus surfaced at Ridgeview Lodge in late December. An outbreak at Ponderosa Lodge earlier in the season ran its course.
Since Nov. 1, three acute-care facilities and six residential care facilities in the region, including the two in Kamloops, have experienced outbreaks of the virus. As well, five schools in the region have reported that more than 10 per cent of their students were absent, said Dr. Andrew Larder, medical health officer with Interior Health Authority.
Larder said the outbreaks call for caution but, along with seasonal influenza, they are nothing out of the ordinary.
“This is the season of norovirus and we see outbreaks every time at this time of year, no exceptions,” Larder said.
Several small outbreaks in Lower Mainland hospitals have nearly run their course and the virus has been confirmed on Vancouver Island.
“Every part of the health authority has been affected,” Larder said. “It’s not just one area; it’s right across the region and across the whole province.”
Provincewide, norovirus incidence is higher, officials said.
“We’re seeing hundreds of people who are affected by norovirus,” said Tasleem Juma, spokeswoman for Fraser Health.
“This year is a particularly difficult year simply because it’s a new strain.”
The Sydney strain of the gastrointestinal virus — named after the Australian capital where it first appeared — is circulating throughout the province, said Dr. Perry Kendall, provincial health officer.
Kendall said the number of norovirus cases in November were about three times the number seen in the same month the previous year. In December, there were about two times the cases.
“So we do have more Norwalk outbreaks going on than we’ve had in quite a while,” Kendall said.
It’s partly cyclical, but the new strain is also a factor, he said.
“There are a variety of strains of Norwalk and you become immune to one but not necessarily others, and the immunity is temporary in any case. So if we have a strain that is relatively new to the population, we can expect more illness,” Kendall said.
Larder said relatives and friends of residential-care facilities are generally well aware of the outbreak protocol. Anyone with symptoms should steer clear of such facilities and hospitals.
Flu viruses are trickier to contain since people can be infected for up to 24 hours before they realize it, Larder said.