01/03/2014 10:14 EST | Updated 03/05/2014 05:59 EST

Norovirus Outbreak At St. Paul's Hospital Limits Visitors

An outbreak of norovirus — also known as the Norwalk virus — at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver has health officials warning potential visitors to stay away.

Providence Health Care says seven patients have been infected by the flu-like illness in two general admission wards. The facility is now working to prevent the virus from spreading to other areas of the hospital. 

"We've taken some preventative measures, some protective measures, that includes bleaching the units very thoroughly. As well we are asking visitors not to come in and visit patients," said Providence Health Care spokesperson Dave Lefebvre.

"If visitors do insist on coming in though, we will be asking them to wear gowns and gloves, and to thoroughly wash their hands both before and after. As well, any staff who might feel like they are symptomatic, we're asking them to stay home and if they're at work then we are sending them home," said Lefebvre.

Also known as the "winter vomiting disease," norovirus is highly contagious and is common at this time of year — particularly in hospitals, long-term care facilities and schools. Symptoms generally last 24 to 36 hours and include chills, cramping, diarrhea, fever and vomiting.

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