Lesson in crisis communication: Painful norovirus infected 75 people at Victoria conference

Barf happens, and the newly converted are quick to cite lessons learned, but the challenge remains – how to get people to pay attention before the outbreak happens?

The Vancouver Sun reports the final two dozen university conference delegates left Victoria on Tuesday after days of battling a painful norovirus outbreak that is believed to have infected about 75 people.

About 370 delegates arrived in the city for a national Canadian University Press conference on Jan. 11.

The journalism convention quickly made national headlines on Sunday morning after the virus rapidly spread throughout the Harbour Towers Hotel and Suites where they all stayed.

Those who were not infected — and some who were — made their way home Sunday, while the rest stayed an extra night or two waiting for their symptoms of vomiting, severe stomach pains and diarrhea to pass.

A shuttle bus took about 13 delegates to the Victoria Airport Tuesday morning with another five or six following them in the afternoon, according to university press staff.

Some students were reporting getting sick during their travels home and some even after they arrived. But with the worst behind them, delegates got back to classes and work.

“If anything, this entire conference, this entire situation, has been a lesson for us in terms of crisis communication,” said Emma Godmere, the CUP national bureau chief, who became a co-ordinator of all communication as information was sent out via Twitter.

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About Douglas Powell

A former professor of food safety and the publisher of barfblog.com, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download Doug’s CV here. Dr. Douglas Powell editor, barfblog.com retired professor, food safety 3/289 Annerley Rd Annerley, Queensland 4103 dpowell29@gmail.com 61478222221 I am based in Brisbane, Australia, 15 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time