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More than 50 students infected by norovirus outbreak at Victoria conference

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Implicit Location : Canada

More than 50 students infected by norovirus outbreak at Victoria conference

More than 50 students are suspected to have been infected during a norovirus outbreak at the Harbour Towers Hotel and Suites.

Photograph by: Adrian Lam,

More than 50 students are suspected to have been infected during a norovirus outbreak at a downtown Victoria hotel this weekend, but that estimate could go higher, according to organizers who stopped counting about 4 a.m. Sunday.

About 370 delegates had been in the city since Wednesday for the annual Canadian University Press national conference. Some time before dinner Saturday, delegates starting feeling ill.

Reports of severe stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting had spread throughout the Harbour Towers Hotel and Suites within hours of the first documented illnesses, said conference organizers.

Some university press staff stayed at the hotel to watch over the few people with initial infections, while dozens of others set out for the final conference gala on campus at the University of Victoria.

The jubilant journalism students rode a couple of orange school buses on their way to Vertigo nightclub. The party atmosphere on the buses was quickly interrupted when several people started to vomit in their seats, said Emma Godmere, national bureau chief for the Canadian University Press.

Sick students returned to the hotel, but others carried on to the nightclub. Once conference organizers realized the scope of the problem, they had every delegate return to the hotel where they could be contained, Godmere explained.

B.C. Ambulance Service had several paramedics at the hotel overnight as students were advised to stay in their rooms in isolation to wait out the virus. Hotel staff have intensified cleaning to help stamp out any further spread, according to management.

Godmere had sent out messages via Twitter and the CUP email list by midnight, telling everyone to stay in their rooms.

"We called B.C. Public Health, and because of the nature of the spread, it was suggested to be norovirus," she said. "We sent out Tweets about recommendations right away."

Students and university press staff communicated through Twitter with the hashtag #nash74, which was trending quite quickly Sunday.

"Just heard that Gatorade, Tylenol and Gravol are all on their way. I'd kill for all those things right now," wrote Erin Epp.

The Vancouver Island Health Authority suggests healthy people leave the hotel while the sick stay in their rooms and stay hydrated.

Many of the comments from delegates praised university press staff for keeping everyone informed throughout the night about the outbreak.

"Kudos to @CUPnash and the Harbour hotel staff for being so great at keeping us informed and helping us get healthy," Katherine DeClerq posted.

Hotel manager Ian Jones said he has never seen anything like a norovirus outbreak at a hotel before. He has worked with health officials to ensure that guests are taken care of and that healthy guests stay that way.

"They have all been in their rooms sleeping it off," he said. "We have cleaning staff wearing gloves and being very diligent with cleaning the sheets and ensuring the rooms are completely clean so this doesn't go any further."

Norovirus can be fairly common in the winter months when people have their windows closed and spend more time indoors. The virus is quite common in North America and is very infectious.

People typically contract it by fecal or oral transfers. Symptoms can last as long as three days.

VIHA health protection inspectors have been on site trying to identify the source of the outbreak. Jones said the group went out to eat dinner and started getting sick late Saturday. A spokeswoman for VIHA said they have ruled out food poisoning.

"They're trying to find a common source for this," said Suzanne Germain, communication officer with VIHA. "There is no evidence this is food poisoning; in fact we're sure it's not."

Many of the infected kept their humour throughout the ordeal. One person hung a sign out the window that read: "Send help." Students tweeted about the sign appearing on television news.

To read HealthLink B.C.’s fact sheet on novovirus infections, which includes information on prevention and treatment, click here.


by : Anonymousdisease : norovirus place : Canada Number of cases : unknown