This one time, at Scout Camp, I got norovirus

I was in Beavers and Cubs for a couple of years as a kid (that’s the Canadian equivalent of Boy Scouts). Each week my parents dropped me off and the parent/volunteer organizers led us through games and crafts (I remember capture the flag and making wooden cars). Every year there was an overnight camping trip that I opted out of. It wasn’t the possibility of norovirus that kept me from camp; it was the rumors of cold, wet cabins.

Centre Daily Times reports that Seven Mountains Scout Camp in Spring Mills PA is shutting down for the the final week of a scheduled camp after 20+ campers became ill with what sounds like Norovirus.

Jim Kennedy, the executive director of the Juniata Valley Council of the Boy Scouts of America, said Sunday his staff decided to “be cautious and safe” and close the camp. About 140 campers were expected to arrive Sunday.

Kennedy said he’s in daily contact with the county health department and will continue to work with that staff.

“We’ve taken their recommendations in cleaning the camp,” he said.

That includes bleaching everything, including mattresses, picnic tables, the pool, camp office, shower house, and every other part of the camp (not sure what the bleach will do on the picnic tables – if they are wood, there’s lots of organic matter to gobble-up the active compounds -ben).

As of Sunday, Kennedy said water and swimming pool tests at the camp came back clean.

While he said extensive cleaning efforts have taken place since Friday, Kennedy said staff also have begun making changes at the camp to address the spread of germs. He said they installed hand-washing stations that campers would’ve used this week, “so they could thoroughly wash their hands in front of us.”

Other efforts include changing meals from family style to cafeteria, changing meal cleanup so there is limited contact with items belonging to multiple people, and bringing in nurses for health screenings upon arrival to camp.

The changes sound like good proactive practices that camps should be employing anyway – in the absence of illnesses.

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About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.