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Norovirus outbreak stabilizing at House of Charity, Union Gospel Mission

House of Charity staff work on equipment outside a large commercial tent pitched on Pacific Ave., near Browne St., the site of the House of Charity in this file photo from November 2016. A second outbreak of norovirus is suspected of sickening a dozen people recently at the HOC, according to the Spokane Regional Health District. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
House of Charity staff work on equipment outside a large commercial tent pitched on Pacific Ave., near Browne St., the site of the House of Charity in this file photo from November 2016. A second outbreak of norovirus is suspected of sickening a dozen people recently at the HOC, according to the Spokane Regional Health District. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Following a norovirus outbreak among homeless people in Spokane over the weekend, health officials and shelter staff are working to get the House of Charity’s doors back open.

A total of 64 clients at the House of Charity and other shelters fell sick over the weekend with the highly contagious virus, which can cause diarrhea and vomiting.

Patrons at Union Gospel Mission, Hope House and the Salvation Army also reported symptoms, health district spokeswoman Kim Papich said.

A dozen House of Charity staff members were also ill.

As of Monday afternoon, the number of reported cases had not increased, Papich said. But people who have developed symptoms in the past day may return to the shelter Monday night or Tuesday morning in search of food and shelter, she said.

Sick people are still being cared for inside the House of Charity, separate from people who are well. City officials erected tents outside the shelter to house people with no symptoms, and some of the healthy have been directed to other shelters. About a dozen Port-a-Potties have been set up outside the shelter.

No new cases have been reported at UGM’s shelter, a spokesman said Monday.

“We acted quickly, and we think it’s under control,” said Dave Wall, a spokesman for UGM.

The outbreak came weeks after the House of Charity opened its doors as an expanded overnight shelter, offering an overflow sleeping area for men and women downstairs. About 210 people stayed at the shelter Friday night.

Norovirus commonly spreads in close-quarter environments like cruise ships and nursing homes, so Papich said it wasn’t surprising to see it spread among shelter residents.

Anyone displaying symptoms will be quarantined at the shelter for 48 hours, Papich said. Once there are no new cases, the House of Charity should be able to resume normal operations. But it’s hard to know when the last patient will fall ill.

“There’s no way to predict short- or long-term outcomes,” she said.

Several people with norovirus have been taken to the hospital, Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said. Those patients usually had a co-occurring disease made worse by the virus, he said.

This story has been updated.


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