About 40 staff at Royal Inland Hospital — all from the operating room and recovery areas — are home recovering from an outbreak of norovirus in their departments.
RIH administrator Marg Brown said the sudden outbreak, likely caused when the staff went for a pre-Christmas staff lunch, led to postponement of 26 elective surgeries on Thursday, Dec. 12 — when the outbreak was discovered — and Friday, Dec. 13.
Some more serious elective surgeries were completed on Friday, Brown said.
Dr. Rob Parker, medical officer of health with the Interior Health Authority, said staff began showing symptoms on Thursday, Dec. 12, and were sent home. Practice requires employees with any symptoms of a contagious illness to not go to work for another 48 hours after those symptoms subside, he said.
Although tests to identify the virus have not been complete, Parker said the symptoms and the fact they appeared about two days after the lunch preclude food poisoning and point to the norovirus.
The illness, which is the most common cause of acute diarrhea and vomiting, happens about this time every year.
In the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions, it can be a serious medical issue but, for health adults, most will recover within about two days, Parker said.
The virus affects the lining of the colon and, because of that, it does not stimulate the body to create antibodies that will lead to immunity, he said.
Some antibodies will be created but, unlike those in the blood system, these will fade away within a couple of years.
Research in the past two decades has also shown norovirus to have many strains, making it difficult to create a vaccine for it.