Prison officials say norovirus may be cause of outbreaks

Thursday, January 27, 2005
Oregon Live, OR

Prison physicians suspect an outbreak of norovirus since Tuesday has
sickened at least 128 inmates at Oregon State Penitentiary and a
neighboring minimum-security facility in Salem.

To prevent the spread of the painful intestinal illness, prison
health officers are looking into possible causes and urging inmates
to give greater attention to personal hygiene.

The first inmates showed symptoms, including stomach cramps, nausea,
vomiting and diarrhea, on Tuesday, said Steve Shelton, Department of
Corrections medical director.

"If it is, indeed, a norovirus, as we suspect, it is very
contagious," Shelton said. "We are cautioning inmates and staff to
wash their hands frequently, cover their coughs and sneezes, and
limit contact with others."

People can be infected with the norovirus by ingesting stool-
contaminated food or water, or by having contact with a person who
is infected.

Stool samples from inmates have been sent to a lab for testing so
prison officials can determine what virus the inmates have. But
there may be no way to determine how the virus was introduced into
the inmate population, prison officials said.

Norovirus symptoms, which also include fever, chills and headache,
generally last a day or two.

The outbreak is the second in less than a year that authorities have
blamed on norovirus. In May, physicians treated 33 inmates with an
intestinal virus at the Snake River Correctional Institution in
Malheur County. -- Joseph Rose

Gastrointestinal Illness Hits 100+ Prison Inmates

Officials Suspect Norovirus 

27 January 2005

SALEM, Ore. -- At least 128 inmates at the Oregon State Penitentiary
are suffering from a gastrointestinal illness.

"The first inmates presented symptoms on Tuesday, Jan. 25. If it is,
indeed, a norovirus as we suspect, it is very contagious. We are
cautioning inmates and staff to wash their hands frequently, cover
their coughs and sneezes, and limit contact with others," Department
of Corrections Medical Director Dr. Steve Shelton said.

The inmates complained of stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and
diarrhea. Norovirus symptoms tend to last no more than two days.

"The good news from the health authorities is that for most people,
the virus is not dangerous. These kinds of viruses are self-
limiting, but we are emphasizing precautions to reduce the chances
of it spreading," Shelton said.


Gastrointestinal illness hits prison

January 27, 2005
Salem Statesman Journal, OR

More than 125 inmates at the Oregon State Penitentiary have
contracted a gastrointestinal illness in recent days, afflicting
about 5 percent of the prison's population with nausea, diarrhea,
vomiting and cramps.

The first symptoms were reported Tuesday, Department of Corrections
spokeswoman Perrin Damon said. A norovirus is suspected of causing
the illness, which is similar to those contracted on cruise ships in
recent years.

"We're responding to the illness with fluids for the inmates and a
large dose of caution," Damon said.

Inmates are being reminded to wash their hands frequently and limit
contact with other inmates.

Officials are working to identify the virus, which is not thought to
have been spread through food, Damon said.

-- Dan de Carbonel