CDC releases norovirus gastroenteritis guidelines

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In response to increasing reports of norovirus gastroenteritis infections and outbreaks in healthcare settings, including nursing homes, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidelines for controlling and preventing outbreaks.

The CDC guidelines offer specific recommendations for implementation, performance measurement and surveillance to both address and prevent outbreaks. This is particularly important for skilled nursing facilities, where patients are usually elderly or have weakened immune systems and thus are vulnerable to viruses and infections.

The guidelines recommend separating asymptomatic residents from people who are experiencing symptoms. Signs of norovirus gastroenteritis include diarrhea and vomiting. Ideally, affected residents should be moved to single-occupancy rooms. If single rooms aren't available, the CDC advises designating care areas for these patients. Healthcare employees also should consider actions such as suspending group activities and limiting a patient's movement between designated care areas.

Additional guidelines address zealous hand hygiene; patient transfer and ward closure; indirect patient care staff; visitor policies; educational efforts, communication strategies and use of diagnostic equipment.

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