stomach flu

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The Norovirus Buffet: 13 of 19 Guests Sickened

Local public health officials report a recent uptick in norovirus — a.k.a stomach flu, and I suspect much of it was centered at the home of my friend and co-author, Beth Jones. She kindly agreed to write up her sorry tale:

Missy is cute, blond, sweet, and four years old. She doesn’t look like a vector. But she initiated such a path of norovirus destruction at our Christmas party that it will forever be remembered as: The Party Where (Almost) Everyone Got Sick. Really, really, sick.

We had friends, a delicious buffet, mulled cider and spiced eggnog. Children ran through the house in dress-up costumes. The tree twinkled, conversations hummed. It was the lovely party we’d hoped for.

At the end of the day, Missy sat on the bottom of our staircase and complained that her stomach hurt. It was no surprise; the kids had been been playing for hours, eating on occasion. Picking up food, tasting it, putting it down. If I were to make a guess, my very unscientific norovirus research would lead me to that act of picking up and putting down. I’d wager that an infected half eaten snickerdoodle or a slice of smoked ham nibbled and abandoned by Missy was the cause of everything that followed.

According to the CDC, people can become infected by the highly contagious norovirus in a variety of ways including “direct contact with an infected person… when sharing food, drinks, or eating utensils…” Our luscious buffet was the likely vehicle for a fast-moving virus.

The party was on Saturday. The norovirus has a 48-hour incubation period. By Monday, Missy was in Children’s Hospital Boston receiving intravenous fluids; she couldn’t even drink water without vomiting. Her mother could barely get out of bed. Two friends mistakenly thought they had food poisoning. Another guest thought the mulled cider had caused her to throw up. Like dominos, nearly everyone was slammed by the virus, knocked down and lying flat in bed or crawling to the bathroom. Thirteen of the 19 people at our party were sick within two days of the holiday festivities. Continue reading