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4 Dead Amid Norovirus Outbreak At Veterans Home

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) – Authorities are investigating an outbreak of norovirus at the Minnesota Veterans Home that may have been connected to four deaths last weekend.

As of this point, officials said that there has been only one hospitalization they have confirmed to be connected with the outbreak, which began on or around one week ago.

A spokesperson for the Veterans Home said that it was not yet clear whether the four deaths at the residents’ home were connected to the outbreak or whether other health complications were a factor.

“We’re not sure those were all related to the outbreak, those residents were all in advanced stages of dementia and/or Alzheimer’s,” said Michael Gallucci, deputy commissioner of Veterans Health Care.

There appeared to be around 35 cases of norovirus in and around the Alzheimer’s unit, officials said.

Minnesota Department of Veteran Affairs spokeswoman Anna Lewicki Long said the department has sent samples to the Minnesota Department of Health and are waiting to hear the results. She says the virus is also an issue in the wider community, as happens annually.

“We’ve seen over 40 outbreaks since the beginning of year that we believe to be norovirus and over half of those have been in settings like this, nursing homes and assisted living facilities,” said epidemiologist Dr. Kirk Smith.

Norovirus is considered very contagious by the Centers for Disease Control. It causes the stomach and intestines to become inflamed and can also lead to diarrhea and stomachaches. It can be picked up from an infected person, contaminated food or water or by touching contaminated surfaces.

During the outbreak, visitations were limited and residents were kept in their own units for meals. Officials also said they put a hold on allowing new resident admissions, and they are now using gloves and masks.

There are approximately 330 residents at the home.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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