Norovirus Outbreak Found at Mendocino Complex Fire Evacuation Center

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LOWER LAKE -- A professional cleaning crew thoroughly disinfected a fire evacuation center in Lower Lake Wednesday following a norovirus outbreak.

Norovirus can spread easily among people living in close quarters. It causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms typically last between one and three days, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Several evacuees became sick with the virus Monday and Tuesday at the Red Cross shelter at Lower Lake High School.

"If it's on your hands and you touch something, then someone else could get it," explained shelter nurse Eva Freeman. "If your hands are clean, it should be safe for everyone."

"We have very little illness at this point," said shelter manager Stephanie Charles of the situation Wednesday evening.

The Red Cross, Lake County Public Health and the Konocti Unified School District worked together, taking steps to help control the outbreak.

"One (step) was to take anybody who was sick and isolate them away from the well people so that it wouldn't spread," Charles saod. "The other thing is, the best defense against norovirus is hand washing and so we put up signs everywhere. We started monitoring the food line and telling everybody when they got in the food line, 'Please go wash your hands.' We went around and talked to people about hand washing."

The origin of the outbreak is unknown. Due to medical privacy, the number of people who got sick has not been released. Some were hospitalized.

Several Mendocino Complex Fire evacuation orders were lifted Wednesday, reducing the population of the shelter from hundreds to a few dozen evacuees.

"You're in the same room with all these people that are sick and you're trying to stay away from it," said evacuee RJ Darden. "It's almost impossible."

But Darden and other evacuees who spoke with FOX40 at the shelter were very understanding and complimentary of the shelter staff members and volunteers.

"They did really good here," said Darden.

Members of the cleaning clew disinfecting the high school Wednesday said they would be working through the night.

Lake County Public Health, Red Cross and Konocti Unified School District are taking the following actions to prevent the spread of norovirus:

• People with symptoms have been grouped together away from people without symptoms and have been provided with separate bathroom facilities.
• People recovering from illness are being kept separate from people without symptoms.
• People with symptoms are being fed separately from people with symptoms.
• Signs have been posted asking people to wash hands frequently, especially before eating and after using the bathroom.
• Outside company is being contracted for additional environmental cleaning and disinfection
• Additional handwashing stations have been set up next to the restrooms and food lines

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