Several residents get sick at Fairhaven nursing home; norovirus suspected


BELLINGHAM - Eleven residents at a Fairhaven nursing home came down with symptoms of what staff suspected may be norovirus Friday, Jan. 3, prompting the center to place a wing of the building under temporary quarantine until affected residents felt better, according to facility staff.

The nurses at Mt. Baker Care Center had determined whatever virus made the residents ill Friday came from a sick visitor, said Andy Leebron-Clay, interim administrator and co-owner of the facility. Kitchen workers and other staff at the center had been checked out and were not sick, she said.

The center voluntarily notified the Whatcom County Health Department and expect lab results in several days may show what caused residents to get sick, she said.

"The staff is great about washing their hands, but unfortunately residents are not always as able to be as careful," Leebron-Clay said. "I talked to several other facilities on this side of the state that have had this sort of problem recently. We were lucky and tried to limit visitors as soon as we were aware of it."

Norovirus can easily spread through contact with infected people, surfaces or food. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. In the United States, norovirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis, and can be especially serious for the elderly and the very young, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Most of the affected care center residents were starting to feel better by Saturday afternoon, and staff expected to take down the signs warning residents and visitors of the outbreak within a day or so, Leebron-Clay said.

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