Hillsboro norovirus linked to changing stations

A baby changing station in a public location, May 10, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)
A baby changing station in a public location, May 10, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)

HILLSBORO, Ore. (KOIN) — When more than a dozen workers at a car dealership got sick after eating a platter of sandwiches, everyone thought it was food poisoning. It turned out the norovirus was lurking in the bathroom.

Washington County epidemiologist Kim Repp got a call from the car dealership who also called the restaurant. But health inspectors found no connection. There was also no connection between what people at and who got sick.

But the dealership employees provided clues.

“Through the interviews, we learned an employee had reported someone with a sick kid used the bathroom changing area,” Repp told KOIN 6 News. “We swabbed it.”

Samples showed norovirus. The employee who cleaned up the changing area — and washed her hands — was also the first to take a sandwich from the buffet.

Repp then checked other changing stations elsewhere in the county.

“We went to 20-30 locations,” she said. “Many did not have a changing station, but 13 were visibly soiled.”

Although this happened last May, her finding tying norovirus for the first time to a public diaper changing table are being published this month in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

“I’m not now putting a baby on it,” mother Jennifer Humphrey said when told about it. “I’ll use a toilet seat cover if I have to change the baby.”

That’s the better idea. Changing pads parents use over and over will just carry the virus home.

“Put a protective liner down,” Repp said. “If you don’t touch it, you can’t get it.”

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