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Friday, December 1, 2006

Stomach bug outbreak at Needham hospital

NEEDHAM

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Care Center in Needham is being disinfected after an outbreak of a gastrointestinal virus sickened 22 employees and two patients. Caused by a family of germs known as noroviruses, the disease causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps but is not life-threatening.

Spokeswoman Margaret Pantridge said the hospital first became aware of the outbreak yesterday, when a number of workers called in sick. The two patients were already in the hospital for unrelated medical reasons, she said. Their condition was not available Friday afternoon.

Hospital officials are unsure of where the virus originated, but Pantridge said that they believe it was spread through person-to-person contact rather than contact with contaminated food, another common means of infection.

Noroviruses are a family of viruses that also includes the Norwalk virus, which is notorious for sickening cruise ship passengers and other people in close quarters.

-- Stephanie V. Siek

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