Merry Christmas North Carolina, it’s noro season

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.Water plant
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.

BC Elementary interschool track meet struck with Noro

From Katie Filion on assignment in New Zealand:

I have virtually no athletic capabilities, but during my elementary school days I was quite the track star. OK, maybe not a star, but I was good enough to make the track and field team.  I remember winning a few races, but usually a day at the track resulted in an embarrassing sunburn. Students at Arden Elementary school in British Columbia weren’t so lucky, with more than one hundred students sent home from the track meet with Norwalk-like virus, reports Comox Valley Echo.

Dr. Jordan Tinney, superintendent of the school said the health department was contacted and the symptoms are consistent with Norwalk. The virus affected no other schools at the track meet.

Dr. Charmine Enns, Comox Valley medical health officer, said,

 "Norwalk or Norovirus is ubiquitous. It’s in all of our communities. It’s easily transmitted because people have very little warning that they’re going to get sick."

Enns stressed that gastro-intestinal illnesses of any type could be thwarted with good hygiene, especially hand washing.

While lab diagnosis had not been sought out, Enns said she was confident the students had been struck with Norwalk.

She explained,

"Typically if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck then it probably is a duck. And it’s quacking and walking like Norovirus."

Arden Elementary has been thoroughly sanitized and nearly all students have returned to classes.


Don’t eat poop – and if it’s on oysters at least cook it

Xinhua News Agency reports,

“A total of 141 people in Macao were food-poisoned after eating polluted raw oysters in local restaurants, the Special Administration Region’s health authorities announced on Monday.

“The food-poisoning outbreak was firstly reported on Aug. 28 when a number of people fell sick after eating raw oysters served in a buffet restaurant in the Venetian Macao Resort, and more cases were later reported in restaurants in the Sands Hotel, Golden Dragon Hotel and the Macao Tower, according to the SAR’s Disease Control and Prevention Center of the Macao Health Bureau ( SSM).

“The SSM said in its latest press release that eight new cases were reported on Monday, the victims of which dined in the four restaurants mentioned above and ate raw oysters, but it also confirmed that those victims have fully recovered from the illness.

“The problem oysters served in the four restaurants came from the same supplier in Hong Kong, according to the SSM, which has ordered the four eateries to stop providing raw oysters at their buffets.

“The food-poisoning was caused by Norwalk virus that was communicable through food, vomit, and excreta among human beings, said the SSM, adding that the victims comprised locals as well as tourists from Hong Kong and elsewhere.”