Careful cleaning up barf: 242 sickened with norovirus at a boys’ basketball tournament, Kentucky, Feb. 2012

Basketball would be more interesting with full body contact; although full vomiting counts.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that on February 6, 2012, the Kentucky Department for Public Health was notified by a local health department of multiple cases of vomiting and diarrhea among participants in a statewide, 7th grade boys’ basketball tournament that was held February 3–5.

Among 52 participating teams, 49 (94%) teams (comprising 573 players) were contacted. Thirty-six teams (73%) reported at least one ill player. Sixty-two employees were identified who had worked at the tournament, and 46 (74%) were interviewed. A total of 242 persons with acute gastroenteritis were identified and interviewed, including 154 (27%) of the 573 players, 12 (26%) of the 46 employees, 11 coaches, and 65 spectators (the total numbers of coaches and spectators attending could not be determined). Nineteen (8%) persons with AGE had sought medical care, including two children who were hospitalized. Three persons from three separate teams had experienced illness onset before the tournament, and one had vomited courtside in a crowded gymnasium on the first night of the tournament. The vomitus was cleaned up by tournament attendees, and janitorial staff members were notified 3 days later. Symptom onset occurred among 196 (81%) ill persons on days 2 and 3 after the vomiting episode. No common food or water sources were identified as potential vehicles for transmission.

Six stool specimens were collected from five players and one spectator; all tested positive for norovirus. Five were sent to CDC for sequencing, and results yielded the identical genogroup II type 7 (GII.7) strain, a relatively rare norovirus strain. These confirmed cases represented players or spectators from four different teams. The three persons who had arrived at the tournament with gastrointestinal symptoms were unable to provide stool specimens for norovirus testing. However, three of the six confirmed stool specimens came from participants who had played on the court where the vomiting episode occurred.

Toddlers served industrial cleaning fluid instead of water by blundering UK restaurant taken to hospital with chemical burns

This is why all jugs and containers in kitchens and food service areas should be color-coded.

One-year-olds Daniel Martin and Sophie Watkinson were rushed to hospital with injuries to mouth and throat after their sippy cups were filled from unmarked jug containing pipe cleaning fluid instead of water at a Toby’s Carvery on Ecclesall Road South, Sheffield.

“When Daniel began to cough we were encouraging him to sip more water, which was obviously just making it worse,” said Mrs Martin, from Bury.

“At the same time, Stuart and myself took the lids off the children’s cups. I put it to my mouth and immediately it smelt like bleach.

“The barmaid came and said: ‘I’m really sorry, we’ve used the pipe fluid.’ I didn’t believe her at first.

“The manager called the ambulance and gave us a bottle of the cleaner to show us and to show to the doctors.”

Kathryn Baines, a public liability solicitor at Irwin Mitchell, said, “It beggars belief that this hazardous liquid was, as we understand it, left in a water jug without any warning or hazard signs to identify it.”

The restaurant chain, owned by leisure group Mitchells and Butlers, said staff have been retrained in cleaning practices following the incident in May.

A spokesman said, “We can confirm Toby Carvery has admitted liability and are currently in correspondence with Mr and Mrs Martin’s solicitors. The safety and well-being of our customers is our primary concern.”

What to do if someone spews

Kansas State student Mayra Rivarola writes in this exclusive for barfblog that hospital rooms and doctors became scarce, when 97 students sickened with gastroenteritis crowded the emergency room in Georgetown University Hospital last week. Students who weren’t receiving medical attention began vomiting in the waiting room, according to the Georgetown Voice.

“I know that some people in the waiting room had been there for three hours. There was a boy yelling ‘help me, help me!’ but there were no doctors,” said Kathrin Verestoun, who went with her roommate to the hospital. “They ran out of rooms and set up stretchers in the hall. Some people were so dehydrated that they couldn’t find their veins for IVs. They were just bleeding. [My roommate] bled all over her stretcher.”

The Georgetown students got sick after dining at Leo O’Donovan Cafeteria, which led to a temporary closure of the dining center. They were diagnosed with norovirus and the number of sick people has since risen to more than 200.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control website states that people can become infected with norovirus by eating food or drinking liquid that is contaminated, by touching contaminated surfaces and subsequently their mouth, or through direct contact with a sick person. The virus is found in vomit or in the stool of an infected person and it is quite contagious.

In establishments where a large number of people are in close contact, like cruises, nursing homes and universities, infectious diseases are common.

At the University of Southern California, it took five days for 300 students to contract norovirus last week. Students were advised to wash their hands often and those who were feeling ill were told to avoid socializing.

Norovirus is not the only disease infecting the classrooms. In Michigan, 34 people got sick with E. coli in September, including 9 students from Michigan State University. Just a month before that, E. coli sickened at least 5 students at Guelph University, with 15 more unconfirmed cases.

Outbreaks happen. So how prepared is Kansas State University?

“I don’t know that anybody is prepared for an outbreak,” said Ron Bridges, campus sanitarian. Food service establishments on campus are inspected monthly by campus staff, and are also inspected annually by the county health department. If there are reports of students getting sick the university may take action depending on the case; officially, the university is not involved.

“Any reported incident of suspected foodborne illness of people who are not related is handled by the Department of Agriculture in the state of Kansas,” Bridges said. The Department of Agriculture then carries on with the investigations.

Bridges said he believes food safety personnel on campus are quite knowledgeable and is confident that they know what they are doing. But some things are just out of their control and outbreaks are hard to prevent.

About 15 years ago, around 80 students were sick after attending a potluck sponsored by a student organization, Bridges recalled. “If the student organization had wanted to hold the event on campus, the food would’ve had to be regulated,” he said. For this reason, K-State does not approve of any organizations serving food on campus.

How to handle vomit and stop the spread
Vomit and other body fluids are potentially contaminated and can easily spread diseases like norovirus if not properly handled. Spills should be immediately cleaned and the area within 25-foot radius properly disinfected.

At Kansas State University, students and faculty are advised to notify the custodial department immediately and to avoid coming into contact with vomit, according to John Woods, director of Facilities Services.

“Custodians are supposed to be trained to go in and handle vomit,” Woods said. “We will be limiting the number of staff authorized to handle vomit.”

Woods explained that custodians are required to wear gloves, goggles, and a mask. They are supposed to spray the area, wait a few minutes, and scoop the vomit in a plastic bag with paper towels. They turn in the plastic bag to public safety.

Hand sanitizers and cleaning mean fewer kids home sick from school

New research in the journal Pediatrics has concluded that,

"A multifactorial intervention including hand sanitizer and surface disinfection reduced absenteeism caused by gastrointestinal illness in elementary school students. Norovirus was found less often on classroom surfaces in the intervention group. Schools should consider adopting these practices to reduce days lost to common illnesses."

Wonder if it would work for restaurants.