Ames, Iowa may not exactly be thought of as a major tourist destination, or sporting venue. Last week, however, it was both, as the host of the first ever Special Olympics USA National Games, with Ames serving as an “olympic village.” Most of it went off rather smoothly, but it also became newsworthy for another reason:
Illness identified at Special Olympics
Several people affiliated with Special Olympics teams who fell ill this week have tested positive for norovirus, a common cause of what is known as the stomach flu, state health officials announced Saturday.
Overall, 52 people exhibiting flu-like symptoms have been treated at field centers around the ISU campus or at Mary Greeley Medical Center since July 4. Of those, 11 were reported to have been treated for dehydration, hospital officials said.
This is the same type of virus I blogged about previously when it caused an outbreak at a Michigan sub shop:
It’s this family of viruses that has been responsible for many outbreaks of diarrheal illness on cruise ships and other public places. They’re spread in a fecal-oral manner: stool particles contaminate unwashed or poorly washed hands, get into your food, and into your intestine, starting the process all over. Vomit from infected indiviuals can also contain contagious particles, and infected indiviuals can continue to shed virus up to 3 weeks after symptoms subside. Careful handwashing or other practices (such as wearing gloves when preparing food) can minimize spread, but unless the restaurant (or entire cruise ship) is very carefully cleaned to remove environmental virus, everything can be easily re-contaminated by residual virus.
Norovirus infrequently causes deaths, but outbreaks of the virus are difficult to contain for reasons such as those I mention above. The source of the outbreak in Ames hasn’t yet been determined.