House of Charity working to stop viral outbreak

House of Charity working to stop viral outbreak

SPOKANE, Wash. - The House of Charity, run by Catholic Charities Spokane, is dealing with an outbreak in a viral infection that causes inflammation of the stomach and/or intestines, called norovirus.

Officials are unsure how the norovirus outbreak initially started, yet on Sunday, 60 people staying at the House of Charity and more than half of the staff members had been infected.  

The norovirus is a common, non-life threatening virus spread by hand-contact. The symptoms include stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, fever, headache and body aches, and are usually gone within a few days. 

"Every doorknob they touch, every toilet they flush, every light switch is potential transmission," said Rob McCann, CEO of Catholic Charities.

Sam Dompier, Director of House of Charity, said that they are taking this matter seriously, and working diligently to stop the virus from spreading further. "We have a large group of staff volunteers sanitizing as best as we possibly can," he said.

Those infected have been treated with medicine and fluids, while 160 guests who are not infected are being quarantined outside the facility in white tents.

"I would anticipate that with care that we will give them here, it will probably subside over couple days," said Dr. Ward Merekely, a local emergency medicine physician.

Rob McCann urged the public to do what they can to help the homeless population, in hopes of stopping outbreaks and other things like this from happening.

"Don't just walk by homeless people, please, if you see someone struggling, call somebody, call 911. These are folks who are filled with suffering and challenge, so once they are sick on top of that, it is best to keep them in your prayers," said McCann.

House of Charity said they plan to keep the tents up for the next two nights.

A professional cleaning service was called Saturday to clean the House of Charity, and they have also partnered with the Spokane Regional Health District and Spokane Fire Department to help with the patients.