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Stomach virus hits hard in Juneau

Hospital officials say number of cases slowing down now

Posted: Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A stomach virus is making the rounds in Juneau, taking people as many as four days to recover.

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The gastrointestinal infection causes nausea, vomiting and "explosive" diarrhea, said Barb Sharp, quality risk manager for Bartlett Regional Hospital.

The number of cases seen in the hospital's emergency room are slowing down, particularly compared to two weeks ago. Up to three patients had been seen with symptoms at the hospital emergency room over the past four days, Sharp said Monday. At the end of December, about 100 hospital staff were sick with the virus, causing overtime among workers in the nursing department.

The virus causing illness in Juneau is not influenza, more commonly called the flu, so people who received flu shots can still contract it.

"A virus like this one, there's nothing in the flu vaccination to protect you against it," Sharp said.

Prevention involves washing hands often, staying away from sick people and staying generally healthy by eating well and getting good rest, said Kate Slotnick, nurse manager at the Juneau Public Health Center.

The stomach virus is passed through fecal-oral contact, so using disinfectant to clean bathrooms, dishes and clothing of sick people could help prevent the virus from spreading within a home, Sharp said.

Bed rest and drinking fluids to prevent dehydration is recommended as treatment, as well as a bland diet of plain rice, toast and bananas or apple sauce once people feel well enough to eat.

Influenza, usually prevalent in Southeast Alaska after the holidays, is not being seen yet in the region, Slotnick said. As of Friday, only three cases of the "flu" had been reported in Southeast.

• Contact Kim Marquis at 523-2279 or kim.marquis@juneauempire.com.



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