Columbian staff writer Tom Vogt reports that about 20 people have become sick in the past few days at a Vancouver retirement center, including eight who were transported to the hospital Monday and Tuesday.
Symptoms include vomiting, nausea and diarrhea. Clark County health officials said Tuesday they still are investigating the cause of the outbreak at the Cascade Inn, 11613 S.E. Seventh St.
About half the inn’s 180 residents are in an assisted-living wing, said Amy Haag, charge nurse at Cascade Inn; most of the cases of illness have been in that part of the building.
The dining area in that wing will remain closed “until we find out what the bug is,” Haag said. “Those residents will be fed in their own rooms,”
The dining area that serves the facility’s independent-living wing remains open, Haag said.
Staff members at the retirement center are observing several measures to prevent the spread of the illness, said Marni Storey, manager of the county’s infectious-disease program.
“We are recommending that ill persons stay in their rooms,” Storey said.
Although there are no indications that it is a food-borne illness, the kitchen was being sanitized with a bleach solution. The health department advised the retirement center’s staff members to wear gloves and protective masks while taking care of ill residents, Storey said.
“Signs have been posted discouraging visitors, and advising that if you do visit, to wash your hands carefully,” she said.
An illness cluster is not unusual at a retirement facility, Storey said.
“This definitely is not the first one of these” over the past few months, Storey said. “This winter, there have been several gastroenteritis outbreaks.”
“This facility had an episode about a year ago,” Haag, the charge nurse, said. “Every facility in Clark County has them.”
The symptoms are similar to those in norovirus outbreaks that hit two local schools this fall, but Storey said the cause of the illness won’t be determined until stool samples are checked by a state laboratory.
“That can take up to a week,” Storey said. “It won’t be definitive until then.”
Storey said the first person became ill on Thursday, and “that person is improving.”
Fifteen residents and six staff members have come down with the symptoms, she said.
Eight people have been transported to the hospital, the first at 6:30 a.m. Monday, said Jim Flaherty, Vancouver Fire Department firefighter and spokesman.
“You see senior citizens with these types of symptoms, and they get into dehydration pretty quickly,” Flaherty said. “And if they’re on medications, or have other medical issues, dehydration can exacerbate those problems.”
Storey said the health department will continue to monitor the outbreak until two days pass without new reports of illness.