May 9, 2016 12:17 pm
Updated: May 12, 2016 12:45 pm

Health officials treating 1 person at Edmonton reception centre for viral stomach bug

WATCH ABOVE: An outbreak of viral gastroenteritis among Fort McMurray evacuees in the Edmonton area appears to be under control, according to David Aitken, branch manager with the City of Edmonton.

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EDMONTON – As of Thursday morning, health officials at the emergency reception centre at Northlands in Edmonton were treating just one active case of what appeared to be viral gastroenteritis.

David Aitken with the City of Edmonton said two people remained in the recovery area and Alberta Health Services officials believe things are going in the right direction.

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A total of 105 people in the Edmonton Zone have shown symptoms of viral gastroenteritis since an outbreak of the viral stomach bug was discovered at the Northlands reception centre last weekend.

On Tuesday morning, Dr. Chris Sikora with Alberta Health Services said 75 cases were reported at the Northlands reception centre, where thousands of Fort McMurray wildfire evacuees have passed through since being forced from their community last week.

Sikora said the other 30 cases were among people elsewhere in the Edmonton Zone, but would not disclose an exact location.

As of 4 p.m. Monday, AHS zones experiencing clusters of gastro-intestinal illness include:

As of Wednesday morning, Gerry Clarke, emergency reception centre district manager, said 32 people remained in the incubation area at the Edmonton Expo Centre.

“In AHS hands right now, the numbers have decreased to a fairly good rate. We’ve got our fingers crossed that we’ve got a handle on this,” Clarke said Wednesday morning.

AHS said a breakout of the illness “is not unexpected,” given the large number of people who have passed through and are living at the site.

“People presenting with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea,” Sikora said Monday. “As with any of our outbreaks, we try to isolate individuals who are ill to give them the chance to recover, recuperate… Rehydration is key and we’re doing our best to support that.”

READ MORE: Fort McMurray wildfire: One week since mass exodus of 80,000 people

People experiencing symptoms are being housed in a separate area in order to provide them with medical care and help stop the spread of the illness to others.

“It’s important to remain hydrated,” Sikora said. “Hand washing is critical, cleaning of high-touch surfaces and really, as much as possible, remaining away from well individuals for about 48 hours after resolution of symptoms.”

Sikora said the illness usually lasts one to three days and is mostly “a nuisance” but becomes much more uncomfortable to deal with when you’re in a strange environment.

“For you or I, if we’re at home in our own environment, we can hang out at home and re-hydrate and be sick in our own environment,” he said.

“When you’re away from home, when you’re in a different place, it’s that much more difficult. It’s more uncomfortable. You’re in a public place, you’re in a place that isn’t your home.”

About 40 to 50 presented with symptoms over the weekend, AHS said. Sikora said it’ll likely take a week or so to completely resolve.

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“It was a challenge yesterday morning (Sunday) when it came to light. I think we nipped it in the bud,” Rob Brekke, co-ordinator with the City of Edmonton’s emergency support response team said Monday. “The numbers were low at the time. We isolated, removed those and are extending care for them.”

A total of 14,750 people have attended the facility since it opened last week. About 11,000 were registered at the facility. As of Monday morning, about 600 were staying in the group lodging provided at the Expo Centre.

READ MORE: Fort McMurray wildfire: Evacuees continue to stream into Edmonton Expo Centre, but officials say numbers aren’t overwhelming

Environmental Public Health staff, as well as Infection Prevention and Control staff, are onsite at Northlands. Medical staff, including EMS crews and nurse practitioners, are also at the centre to help care for those with gastrointestinal symptoms.

AHS has urged anyone feeling ill to seek medical attention. It’s also important for everyone to thoroughly wash their hands with warm water and soap before and after using the washroom, and before and after eating.

Those experiencing symptoms can also call Health Link at 811 to speak to a registered nurse.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was originally published on Monday, May 9, 2016. It was updated most recently at 10:43 a.m. MT Thursday to include the latest number of ill people.

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