More than 50 people have been sickened by a highly contagious virus at a North Augusta nursing home but the home is not to blame, said a spokesman for the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. But the administrator for UniHealth Post-Acute Care-North Augusta said there have only been five confirmed cases and the infections seemed to have stopped.
DHEC Spokesman Adam Myrick said Friday that 28 residents and 24 staffers have been sickened by a norovirus at Unihealth and at least one person was hospitalized. But Administrator Teri Roop said there have been only five confirmed cases, and that no one has shown symptoms for a couple of days so the outbreak might be done.
“The tough part is over,” she said. “We’ve come out of the woods and things are looking good.”
The home had been asking for voluntary limits on visitation but is hoping to lift those by Monday, Roop said.
Most have had the classic symptoms of a norovirus infection, which are diarrhea, vomiting and cramping, Myrick said.
The virus can be spread by contaminated food or water but also survives well on surfaces such as doorknobs, so it spreads easily in close quarters, Myrick said. The virus most often shows up in areas where a lot of people share the same space, such as schools. It is the leading cause of food-borne illness in the U.S., causing 21 million infections a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The facility reported the outbreak this week to DHEC and is cooperating with the investigation, Myrick said.
“We’re very pleased with what they’ve done and how they’ve handled the situation,” he said. “Right now, they are following our cleaning recommendations and keeping an eye on things very, very well.”
The nursing home is not likely to face any discipline over the outbreak, Myrick said.
“With noro(virus) being so prevalent, so contagious, something that spreads so rapidly, it is one of those things that happens,” he said.
According to the Medicare.gov Web site, the facility had 35 deficiencies during the last posted inspection on Dec. 15, 2010. Those included a failure to: “store, cook, and give out food in a safe and clean way” and lack of a “program to keep infection from spreading,” according to the inspection report. All of the deficiencies were reported as corrected on Jan. 14, 2011, or by June 16. But complaint investigations occurred as recently as Nov. 30, according to the Web site.
On a scale of one to five stars, the home has an overall one star rating on the Medicare.gov Web site.
Roop, who said she has been at the facility only a few months, said that does not fairly represent conditions now.
“I don’t feel like that’s a reflection of how the facility gives care as of today,” she said.