After a couple of days in the 70s (that’s above 21C for the non-Americans) the weather in North Carolina has turned cold and crisp. Along with the cooler weather comes the seasonal warning for increased norovirus illnesses.
Noroviruses haven’t always been called noroviruses. In 1929 Dr. John Zahorsky wrote about children developing sporadic cases of vomiting, supplemented by watery diarrhea each year between November and May – and over 30 years of clinical practice, he coined the term winter vomiting sickness. According to a 1950 Time Magazine article, Dr. Zahorsky was a pediatrician working extolling the vitures of good sanitation during birth and infant care – one of the fathers of disease prevention.
In 1968, one of these winter vomiting sickness outbreaks occurred in an elementary school in Norwalk, OH. Teachers and students were both affected, with 32% of the primary cases spreading illness to others in their families and homes. After a collaborative investigation with researchers from NIH and Walter-Reed Army medical center a causative agent was found in the feces of the ill — a 27nm sized virus particle. Zahorsky’s illnesses then took on the name Norwalk. Since then, the name has morphed to Norwalk and Norwalk-like viruses, which begat noroviruses.
As the weather turns cold, noro in the population emerges and becomes somewhat more stable in the environment. According to the Raleigh News and Observer lots of folks in North Carolina are getting sick.
With two outbreaks in North Carolina last week now confirmed as norovirus, the season for the hard-to-fight intestinal illness has begun, say state health officials.
The state Department of Health and Human Services is tracking 29 cases so far in Henderson and another six in Alamance County, said Ricky Diaz, a department spokesman.