Norovirus grounds NZ plane while health authorities are consulted

In 2013, then four-year-old Jack yacked on a flight which led to a fascinating display of infection control by Delta Airlines involving plastic bags (to contain the potential pathogen) and coffee pods (to manage the smell). The flight crew let us off the plane first, although we were in the second-to-last row, and we potentially inoculated the plane, and passengers, with norovirus.111007015237-sick-throwing-up-airplane-motion-story-top-1

Maybe the best plane-related outbreak was one reported in Clinical Infectious Diseases a couple of years ago. I’d describe my poop and barf-related imagination as pretty good but I couldn’t have dreamt up the scenario that unfolded on a plane leaving Boston bound for Los Angeles in October 2008. The outbreak included a passenger with “multiple episodes of diarrhea, with at least 1 occurring in the aisle of the first-class section. The soiled aisle was not cleaned until after completion of the flight.”

According to the New Zealand Herald  a flight from Queenstown to Christchurch was grounded today as about 40 passengers, all members of a tour group, began feeling ill and reported they had been exposed to norovirus.

“[The flight] was delayed this morning while advice was sought from Canterbury regional public health authorities after reports of unwell passengers on board,” a spokeswoman for Air New Zealand said.

“After public health authorities had assessed the situation the all-clear was given to disembark the passengers, with the unwell passengers advised they cannot be accepted for further travel until they are well again.”

Earlier, one passenger, Charles Finney, tweeted: “Not allowed to leave flight at Christchurch because health authorities worried passengers might have contagious virus! A first for me!”

He continued to update the situation, saying he was “furious” the tour group got on board knowing some of them were unwell.

“Worried about Norovirus. Tour group has had unwell people for days apparently but still travelled!,” he posted.

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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.