Oregon scientific sleuths trace norovirus outbreak to reusable grocery bag
Back to Main MenuBusiness News HomeFront PorchIt Only MoneyOregon the EconomyPlaybooks ProfitsSilicon ForestWindow ShopStock Market ReportBusiness Public BlogBack to Main MenuVideos from the OregonianVideos from The Beaverton LeaderVideos from the Hillsboro ArgusVideos from The Forest Grove LeaderYour VideosPublic Health Image LibraryThis is what norovirus particles look like using an electron micrograph.The sturdy reusable grocery bag traveled with the girls’ soccer team from Beaverton to Seattle for a weekend tournament, where it picked up something much less sweet than the cookies inside.But the team members didn’t know highly contagious viruses were on the bag as they passed it around during Sunday lunch, plucking out the chocolate goodies.The next day six of the girls fell violently ill in a mysterious outbreak of norovirus, the leading cause of severe gastroenteritis in the United States.It took Oregon scientists about five days of intensive sleuthing to pinpoint the bag as the likely culprit and lab tests to confirm its role.That confirmation marked a breakthrough: Scientists have long known that this hardy virus is transmitted from person to person but never before have they been able to prove that transmission from an inanimate object caused an outbreak.”In other outbreaks, we have been able to isolate the virus from door han adidas samba dles or keyboards, but we have never been able to show it was the keyboard or door handle that made people sick,” said Kimberly Repp, epidemiologist with the Washington County Departmen adidas samba t of Health and Human Services.The investigation also highlighted how hardy the noroviruses are and the challenge public health officials have combating them.The outbreak occurred in October 2010, but the investigative report was just published today in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.Seventeen girls, ages 13 and 14, and their chaperones traveled to Seattle on a Friday afternoon in five cars to play in a weekend soccer competition pitting 120 teams from Oregon and Washington. On Saturday, one of the teens started to feel sick so she went to a chaperone, asking if she could stay in her room. The girl ended up spending six hours in the chaperone’s bathroom, throwing up and suffering from diarrhea. The woman whisked her out of the hotel and drove her back to Oregon. The team played on Saturday and enjoyed Sunday lunch together in a room at the hotel before returning home that afternoon.On Monday, six more girls came down with acute gastroenteritis.Repp spent the next several days interviewing and re interviewing the girls who got sick, trying to figure out how the virus had spread.Clearly, the outbreak st adidas samba arted with adidas samba the first girl. But Repp and Keene couldn’t figure out how she infected the others. She stayed in a room by herself on Friday, and once she felt ill had no contact with anyone besides the chaperone. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps.Most outbreaks happen when infected people spread the virus to others through close contact. But it can also spread by consuming contaminated food or water and touching surfaces or objects that have the virus on them.Leafy greens, fresh fruits and shellfish are most commonly involved in foodborne outbreaks.The best prevention: thorough hand washing and cleaning contaminated surfaces with a bleach based solution.Source: Centers for Disease Control and PreventionNorovirus which caused 139 of 213 outbreaks of gastroenteritis in Oregon in 2010 is often transmitted through direct contact with an ill person, though contaminated water or food can cause an outbreak as well. That makes it difficult to track transmission.”In outbreaks, it can be difficult to discern what exposure causes disease because norovirus can spread through many means,” said Aron Hall, an epidemiologist with the Division of Viral Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.