Ames Public Library closes due to norovirus concerns


Dom Spizzirri/Iowa State Daily

Ames resident Sarah Bruxvoort attempts to rent a DVD from the Ames Public Library to find it is closed for Feb. 19-20 due to a large number of staff having an illness. 

Stephen Snyder

The Ames Public Library had to close its doors temporarily on Thursday and Friday due to a disconcerting spread of norovirus among the library employees. The number of sick employees totaling more than 30 as of Wednesday afternoon.

In a press release issued by the city of Ames, Terri Olinger, a Homeward Public Health Nurse for the Story County Public Health office stated that norovirus is a common winter illness.

“Norovirus is the most common cause of gastrointestinal illness nationally and in Iowa. Norovirus activity is traditionally higher in the colder months because peoples are indoors more and in closer contact,” Olinger said.

Norovirus is not a concern for otherwise healthy individuals, but the virus spreads very quickly and incidents such as this one are further evidence of the importance of practicing winter health habits. Public Relations Officer Susan Gwiasda gave more specifics about the library

“The first instance of an employee calling in sick with the symptoms of norovirus occurred on Tuesday and by Wednesday, 29 were reported as having called in sick,” Gwiasda said.

When asked about the concern of the illness spreading to library patrons or remaining in contact with the library staff, Gwiasda explained the library’s employee health policy and gave tips for patrons to avoid contracting any winter illnesses. The press release stated that there is no reason to believe that the Library materials pose a risk to patrons.

“We ask that our employees not come into work when they are sick. Not only for concerns of their personal health, but the health of their coworkers as well. For our patrons, we would seek to remind them that, as with any public place where the health of those around you is unknown, it is important to keep up winter health practices,” Gwiasda said.

There were no concerns expressed about the virus spreading outside of the library to surrounding businesses.

According to the Center for Disease Control, norovirus can be a serious illness for young children, the elderly and people with additional health concerns. Symptoms of norovirus include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and a low grade fever. The illness typically runs its course in two days, but can be contagious for two days after symptoms are no longer present. Norovirus is not related to the flu.

If a person is experiencing these symptoms, they should stay home from work or school and be sure to drink plenty of fluids, as dehydration is the most common complication associated with norovirus.

Although the library will remain closed, returns will still be possible through the library’s drop box. The library has made plans to reopen on Friday.