Stomach virus outbreak hits Venice assisted living facility

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VENICE, FL. - Dozens of residents in a Venice assisted living facility are experiencing symptoms typically associated with the Norovirus.

Many of them are now being isolated to keep the gastrointestinal sickness from spreading at the Bella Vita Independent and Assisted Living Facility. The Florida Department of Health is working to help get the situation under control.

Just yesterday we ran a piece talking about the Norovirus becoming more prevalent in food perpetration. A day later we get a call that at least something similar is causing a lot of people at Bella Vita to get sick.

"We had an increase number of illnesses reported and the facility is working to contain the illness," says Eboni Corprew with the Department of Health.

The Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County says by this past weekend, 25 individuals had come down with gastrointestinal issues like severe diarrhea and vomiting. The biggest threat, however, is dehydration. One source says the number is now more than 35, and the residents are being isolated.

"Because it is so quickly spread we do recommend to facilities that individuals be isolated. They get the same level of care. They get their meals and everything like that. It's just a measure to control the illness," says Corprew.

Corprew says the Health Department is waiting for confirmation that is in fact the Norovirus, which often makes the news when found on cruise ships, but it’s being found more often now in food preparation.

Those at Bella Vita declined any type of recorded interview, but Kristin Puckett with Brookdale Senior Living, which is the parent company that runs the facility says, "We are taking a number of precautions to protect residents and staff. We are using paper products, thoroughly cleaning, serving residents’ meals in their rooms, and limiting group activities." She goes on to say, "The health of their residents is a top priority," says Corprew.

"It's pretty common, especially this time of year." Corprew says there are actually a handful of cases locally like it every year. "You have multiple individuals within the same setting. They are among the same surfaces eating the same foods. There are several factors which can play to the spread of illness."

Corprew also says that it takes just a little of the virus, which is usually spread through feces contamination, to make a big impact. "Washing hands after using the restroom. Be sure to wash surfaces before preparing food. If you are ill, not preparing food."

We were tipped off to this by a family member of someone who lives there. They were upset they were not notified of the outbreak and also said this has been an ongoing issue here. Those with Bella Vita say they were going to get back with us on those concerns.

The Health Department says this is the first time they've been involved. Facilities are required to let the Health Department know if there is an outbreak.