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This negative-stain transmission electron microscopy image, provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, shows a norovirus, also known as the Norwalk Virus.

F.P. Williams, U.S. EPA/The Associated Press

An outbreak of norovirus at a Metro Vancouver hospital has forced the quarantine of two wards until at least Friday.

Officials at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, B.C., say at least 18 people have confirmed cases of the highly contagious virus, which causes flu-like symptoms, including vomiting and diarrhea.

The latest illness was diagnosed Tuesday, meaning the earliest the quarantine can be lifted is Jan. 4, if no more cases are reported.

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Fraser Health spokeswoman Tasleem Juma says 12 patients and six staff members have been affected.

She says the emergency room of the busy hospital remains open.

Other operations at Royal Columbian are also continuing as normal.

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