A hospital in Daito, Osaka has become the scene of a norovirus outbreak that has so far claimed the lives of two patients.
Since the outbreak began on Nov 27, 48 patients and medical staff have contracted the norovirus at the hospital. An 88-year-old woman and a 76-year-old man are believed to have died of organ failure after being infected, NTV reported Wednesday.
Doctors say the gastroenteritis symptoms caused by norovirus include repeated vomiting and diarrhea. Although symptoms usually abate within a day or two, the norovirus can also cause dehydration in young children and the elderly, affecting chronic diseases.
Norovirus infections are transmitted person to person, by contaminated food and water, and by contaminated surfaces. Local authorities say they are trying to identify the source of the outbreak.
The National Institute of Infectious Diseases is warning of a norovirus epidemic, as 2012 shows one of the highest infection rates on record. According to data collected from around 3,000 medial institutions, the average number of suspected norovirus patients per hospital stood at 11.39 in the week of Nov 12-18 this year. This figure represents the highest number since 2006, when 16.42 people per hospital were infected.