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A recent outbreak of a stomach virus in a Durham retirement home has led to an investigation.

While the cause and type of the virus which affects the gastrointestinal system is not known" health officials are taking steps to find out.

""Hopefully we will be able to determine the cause within a week"" said Robert Brown, environmental health director for Durham County.

We are doing a number of investigations concurrently"" he said.

Brown said several people went to the hospital, and while there were reports of several other sick people, the total number of people affected has not been documented.

He would not release the name of the retirement facility affected.

Officials also enacted measures to avoid further spread of the disease.

Management shut down the dining hall immediately" and environmental health staff visited the facilities to distribute infection control" Brown said.

The outbreak in Durham County is not an isolated event, officials said.

Numerous outbreaks similar to this one have occurred recently across the state"" said Gayle Harris, health director for the Durham County Board of Health.

Most of the people that were reported sick have stopped seeing symptoms after about two to three days" she said.

Health professionals also said there was no reason to think that students would be safe from a disease that started in a retirement community.

Students have no more immunity from a virus than people in a retirement home" said David Weber, medical director of hospital epidemiology and occupational health at UNC Hospitals.

Weber estimated that students might be sick for about two days with the type of virus found in Durham County and said the symptoms that occur in senior-citizens likely would be more severe.

In some outbreaks more than 50 percent of the people in a confined area could become infected" Weber said. A virus like this one is also easily spread.

It is quite contagious and can be spread simply by sharing a glass or towel with someone" Weber said. There is also some evidence that it can be inhaled.""

There has not been a report of this specific outbreak on the UNC campus" but Orange County issued a health advisory about a similar disease — the Norovirus — about a week ago Weber said.

Anyone suffering from symptoms including vomiting diarrhea fever or stomach ache should receive treatment. UNC Campus Health Services is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the weekend.



Contact the State & National Editor at stntdesk@unc.edu.


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