AHS warns of gastrointestinal illness among Fort McMurray evacuees


Alberta Health Services
News release

May 12, 2016

EDMONTON – Alberta Health Services (AHS) is responding to an increase in patients experiencing symptoms consistent with viral gastroenteritis at various evacuation/reception centres, around Alberta. Zones impacted, as of 4 p.m. Wednesday, May 11, are listed below.

Though this is not unexpected, given the large numbers of people who are using and living at these sites, AHS is actively working with evacuation/reception centres, to manage the increased numbers of ill people, and help prevent further spread of the illness.

As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, May 11, Zones experiencing clusters of gastro-intestinal illness include:
Edmonton Zone: 151 cases.
Central Zone: three cases.
Calgary Zone: 28 cases.
North Zone: one case.

The above noted case counts are cumulative, since outbreaks began (the first case was identified May 6). These numbers do not only reflect current individuals ill – these numbers reflect all outbreak cases, including individuals who have already recovered.

Not all cases are tested, however there is one confirmed case of norovirus at the Northlands reception/evacuation centre. One case is sufficient to affirm that the management strategy is correct.

Norovirus is a virus that can cause gastrointestinal illnesses. It is a common virus, which can be prevented through good hand hygiene and food preparation practices.

It is important to note that these evacuation/reception centres remain safe for all current and new residents.

AHS teams working to protect the health of individuals at these centres include Environmental Public Health staff, Infection Prevention and Control staff, Medical staff, EMS crews and Nurse Practitioners. Individuals experiencing symptoms can also call Health Link at 811, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to speak to a registered nurse.

Separate areas for housing of ill individuals at these centres are being explored/implemented, as possible, at each site. Additionally, washroom and shower facilities are being cleaned, access to hand sanitizer has been increased, and posters encouraging routine hand hygeine have also been developed.

To reduce the risk of spread, we urge all individuals to:

Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before and after using the washroom; before and after eating or preparing food; and after changing diapers.

Also use hand sanitizer provided.

Do not prepare food for anyone, if you are ill.

Do not visit family or loved ones at reception/evacuation centres if you are feeling ill. Please only visit if you are well.

Please note: because these outbreaks are evolving, this health advisory will remain in effect until further notice. AHS will provide daily updates on the GI illnesses at the reception/evacuation centres, after 4 p.m., daily, if and as updates are available or necessary.

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta.

Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.

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