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Friday, August 17, 2018

Summer Sickness may equal Winter Weakness

A few weeks ago while a group of us were floating in the river enjoying an adult beverage my husband announced that in 120 days it will be winter. The day in question was north of 30oC (>90oF).  It was sunny.  The water we were floating in was about 82oF.  My drink was over ice.  None of us were interested in thinking about winter, snow, ice or -30oC (-22oF) temperatures.  There are now only 106 days until winter starts.  As I no longer ski and people are often idiots when driving in snow, I’ve hit the age where I can do without it. It’s bad enough 10 out of 12 months of my year are spent hockey rinks. I get enough “freezing” time.

So what does winter and freezing have to do with summer sickness?  Norovirus infections can occur at any time of the year, but happen most often during the winter months – hence its old name “winter vomiting disease”. Apparently for Norovirus, there is a link to the severity of outbreaks during summer months and what our winter Norovirus “season” might look like. Experts reviewed Norovirus trends and are linking higher case counts in the summer to winters with more severe disease.  Britain has been experiencing a rash of gastro cases with unusually high numbers of people suffering with diarrhoea and vomiting.  Based on published information, the illnesses appear to be short-lived, with a sudden onset, and very unpleasant – sounds like Noro to me!  The difficulty in confirming the cause of illness can be attributed to the fact that most people when sick do not seek medical attention so samples are not taken for verification. One of the trends noted is that following the increased summer activity of 2002, there were more cases than usual reported in the following winter, higher than any of the preceding years. 

Before we start yelling “The sky is falling”, it’s too early to say that what’s going on this summer can in fact predict what will happen in the near future.  But here’s a few examples of what happened this summer:
  •         At least 97 people suffered from symptoms of vomiting, diarrhoea and fever after spending time at Woods Pond Beach in Bridgton, Maine in the US.
  •         Officials at Camp Glenburn (New Brunswick, Canada) decided to close the summer camp for the rest of the season after being closed a second time because of norovirus.
  •         780 people have caught the illness since May, back when the hot weather in the UK began.
  •         3 outbreaks on cruise ships since May with 187 illnesses. 1 of the outbreaks has been confirmed as Norovirus, the other 2 remain unknown.

In probably one of the best quotes I have read on Norovirus, Dr Peter Cowling, a microbiologist from the UK stated “The only way to avoid norovirus is to avoid everyday life.  You run a risk of catching it wherever you go and if you come into contact with someone who is infected you are highly likely to catch it.”

Realistically, getting Norovirus at any point during the year is a crapshoot (pun intended).  It will be interesting to see if the same trends with higher than normal summer Norovirus sickness will lead to upcoming winter Norovirus weakness!

Bugging Off!

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