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Virus strikes Royal Columbian

Two wards at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster were expected to be reopened to admissions late this week after they were hit by a norovirus in the dwindling days of December.

Fraser Health chief medical officer Paul Van Buynder said influenza and gastrointestinal diseases are common occurrences in the winter. This season, however, has been exacerbated by the Sydney strain, named after the Australian city where it first surfaced, showing up in Canada in the last couple of months.

“We don’t have an outbreak of norovirus at Royal Columbian, we have an outbreak of norovirus throughout B.C. and Canada,” said Van Buynder. “It’s going to be worse this year because it’s a change in the strain.”

When 12 patients and half a dozen staff came down with the virus at RCH’s Six South and Six North wards, they were isolated and the units thoroughly cleaned. Van Buynder said that’s what’s done anytime it happens in Fraser Health, noting there are six to eight long-term facilities in Fraser Health that have had influenza outbreaks.

“It’s surprising there’s a focus on Royal Columbian. In reality, those are happening all the time. We have aggressive policies to make sure it doesn’t spread. I can’t prevent the actual bug because it’s everywhere at the moment”

Even though it has unpleasant symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting, Van Buynder said the good thing about the virus is it only last a day or two.

“The bad thing is it is very, very infectious and very easy to spread,” he said. “This is the type of bug that gets on cruise ships where the whole ship gets sick, and everyone is demanding refunds and the ship needs a thorough cleaning.”

As of Wednesday, there had been no new cases for a couple of days. Since all of those who were infected had to be symptom free for 72 hours, Fraser Health was anticipating Six South would be opened by Thursday and Six North by Friday.

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