Pumpkin carving gathering linked to noro outbreak

As my kids get older I start to relive my youth. Last week’s Halloweeen festivities reminded me of costume parades, classroom pumpkin carving competitions and seed roasting.

All shared activities, which turnout to be pretty good norovirus sharing grounds.F2XEZKMG1BB7VQI.MEDIUM

According to the Register Guard, over 100 students and teachers at a Eugene, Oregon school were out with norovirus symptoms following pumpkin carving festivities.

One of two pumpkin-carving events held prior to Halloween may have been the cause of a suspected norovirus outbreak at O’Hara Catholic School, Lane County officials say.

The school welcomed students and staff back to class Tuesday following an extended five-day weekend after the outbreak caused at least 100 people to fall ill. School Principal Tammy Conway said about 40 percent of students were absent on Tuesday.

The long weekend came after 16 staff and faculty members of the school on West 18th Avenue called in sick last Thursday, prompting administrators to cancel classes and close the school for the remainder of the week.

Jason Davis, spokesman for Lane County Health and Human Services, said on Tuesday that after ruling out several other potential causes, a pumpkin-related incident could be the culprit.

Davis stressed that a confirmed culprit for the virus has not yet been identified, though a number of different leads have been ruled out, including a staff-wide breakfast.

“A lot of parents just decided to keep their kids home as a precaution, which isn’t really necessary at this point,” he said.

Norovirus is extremely contagious and usually transmitted when someone accidentally gets traces of stool or vomit from an infected person in their mouth, according to Davis. He said the virus is transported primarily by fecal matter, either in food or on hard surfaces, and is not transmitted through the air.

Not quite There’s some nice science out of the NoroCORE project that shows aerosolization is possible.

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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.