Signs warning of a viral outbreak are posted at the Bancroft Convalescent Hospital on Tuesday January 30, 2007 in San Leandro, California.(Aric Crabb /The
Signs warning of a viral outbreak are posted at the Bancroft Convalescent Hospital on Tuesday January 30, 2007 in San Leandro, California. (Aric Crabb /The Oakland Tribune)
SAN LEANDRO — About 20 patients and staff at the Bancroft Convalescent Hospital have come down with the norovirus.

The 29-year-old nursing facility has been under quarantine since Jan. 20, with signs posted on its doors warning visitors not to step foot on the premises.

While effects of the outbreak have been nasty, authorities have been able to limit the number of people affected. Still, hospital staff said, the atmosphere at the nursing facility remains stagnant until all the symptoms go away.

"There's not a damn thing you can do till it's over," owner Boyd MacDonald said from his home. He also had been affected by the outbreak and was recovering in bed.

On Jan. 20, the convalescent hospital reported its first case of norovirus, a contagious flu-like disease. A new employee first came down with the symptoms, MacDonald said, andthat's when the outbreak spread. She has since left the hospital.

In all, about 12 patients and eight hospital staff members were affected. Luckily, MacDonald added, the virus didn't spread to the facility's 27 other patients and 42 other employees.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, norovirus usually is not serious but makes people feel nauseated and miserable for 24 to

48 hours. It can be contagious for at least two weeks after recovery, but most people recover within a couple of days.


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Noroviruses are common in nursing homes, day care centers, hospitals and other group settings in the winter. Cruise ships also have proven susceptible, as seen when the Queen Elizabeth 2 arrived last week in San Francisco with more than 300 sick passengers and crew affected by the outbreak.

MacDonald said the convalescent hospital reported a more severe outbreak in March, which lasted longer than the current outbreak.

But hospital staff members are taking all measures to keep the facility sanitized and monitored, even though MacDonald doesn't think it would do any good.

"All it does is show that we're making our best effort," he said. "It doesn't make it all go away. ... But we'll be OK."

Because a person who could be carrying the virus may not know he is sick, the CDC suggests that people frequently wash their hands, especially after using the bathroom and changing diapers and before eating or preparing food.

In the convalescent hospital's case, though, that practice can be pretty difficult to enforce, as a number of visitors can go in and out of the facility at any point during the day.

That's why the outbreak should not be blamed on the convalescent hospital, MacDonald said. If anything, he added, the nurses should be commended.

"We're the victims here," he said. "It's a hard job knowing when they come here that they probably will get sick, but they come to work anyway. I give a lot of credit to them."