Norovirus Outbreak Reported in California Fire Shelter as Death Toll Hits 56
Officials report outbreak of the highly contagious virus at shelter for Camp Fire evacuees
As the death toll reaches 56 for the Northern California Camp Fire, with 130 people still missing, health officials have reported an outbreak of the highly contagious norovirus in a shelter for the evacuees of the worst fire in US history.
On Wednesday, a shelter housing more than 150 people evacuated from the deadly Camp Fire in California reported evacuees being struck down with a bug.
Early on Thursday, health officials confirmed that lab tests had identified roughly 15 to 20 people seeking refuge at the Neighborhood Church of Chico, located in Butte County, California, have been infected with the virus.
A public health department official told The Sacramento Bee, the extremely infectious norovirus causes gastric distress in humans leading to severe vomiting and diarrhea.
According to Fox News, Lisa Almaguer, spokeswoman for the Butte County Public Health Department, told the paper fire evacuees at the Oroville Church of the Nazarene shelter, where roughly 166 people are staying, are also exhibiting norovirus symptoms.
Approximately 170 people are housed at the Chico shelter, according to Diane Shoen of the American Red Cross, however, she would not confirm reports of the norovirus outbreak to the Bee citing health confidentiality laws.
Almaguer told the paper precautions are being taken to prevent the spread of the virus, including quarantining those who are sick.
“They want us to keep washing our hands and not shake hands and use Purell (sanitizer) before dinner,” Rich Montgomery, an evacuee from Magalia, told the paper.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the “norovirus infection occurs most frequently in closed and crowded environments.”
The death toll in California's Camp Fire rose to 56 on Wednesday night after authorities said they discovered an additional eight sets of human remains in the state's deadliest wildfire.
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said at a news conference that of the 56 remains found, officials have "tentatively identified" 46 of them, but are awaiting DNA confirmation.
The fires in Northern California are still considered an "emergency situation," the sheriff said. Nearly 5,500 personnel are working to battle the blaze.
Cal Fire officials said that the fire has now burned 138,000 acres and is 35 percent contained.
It's destroyed nearly 9,000 homes and displaced 52,000 people.
As the scope of a deadly Northern California wildfire set in, the sheriff said more than 450 people had now been assigned to comb through the charred remains in search for more bodies.
The blaze has killed at least 56 people and authorities say 130 are unaccounted for.
Many of the missing are elderly and from Magalia, a forested town of about 11,000 to the north of Paradise.
The one major roadway that runs through the mostly residential town is dotted with gas stations, a pizza shop, a hair salon, and Chinese restaurants and convenience stores.
There is no Main Street or town center.
Resident Johnny Pohmagevich says a Rite Aid on the main road is as much of a center as the town has.
"When I say downtown I mean Paradise," said Pohmagevich, who opted to stay in Magalia even as fire closed in.
Pohmagevich, an 18-year Magalia resident who works at Timber Ridge Real Estate and lives just up the road from many burned homes, said he stayed to protect his employer's property from looters and to prepare some cabins and mobile homes so business tenants can live if they come back.
"If this town does recover, it's going to take many, many years," he said.