The Spokane Fire Department reported Saturday that about 40 overnight guests and staff at the House of Charity have shown symptoms consistent with norovirus and tests are being run to confirm a diagnosis. This has prompted a voluntary isolation order to be issued.
“If people are sick they need to stay away from the rest of the population and get plenty of rest,” said Dr. Sam Artzis, Spokane Regional Health District interim Health Officer. “We are urging those who visited the House of Charity within the past two days and are showing symptoms to return to rest.”
A professional cleaning service has been called in to clean the House of Charity, which opened earlier this month as a temporary overnight shelter regardless of temperature. The Spokane County Health District has responded to about two dozen viral outbreaks, like norovirus, annually.
Spokane Fire Department personnel are stationed at the House of Charity and are also evaluating guests who are showing similar symptoms at the Union Gospel Mission. Arrangements are being made to accommodate well overnight guests tonight and keep them separated from sick guests. Approximately 220 guests slept at the House of Charity last night.
People experiencing homelessness and showing symptoms are encouraged to go to the House of Charity as a place to get out of the weather and rest.
Norovirus is a common, non-life-threatening virus best prevented by thorough and regular hand washing. Symptoms include stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, fever, headache and body aches.
A person usually develops symptoms 12 to 48 hours after being exposed to norovirus. Most people with norovirus illness get better within one to three days. Norovirus can lead to dehydration, especially in young children, older adults, and people with other illnesses. Symptoms of dehydration include decrease in urination, dry mouth and throat, and feeling dizzy when standing up.
Prevention includes carefully and thoroughly washing hands with soap and water, especially after using the toilet and changing diapers and before eating, preparing and handling food. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used in addition to hand washing. Fruits and vegetables should be washed thoroughly.