New Brunswick

Suspected norovirus outbreak keeps students in Victoria

Several people who were attending a national student journalism conference in Victoria last week remain under voluntary quarantine in their hotel rooms because of a suspected outbreak of norovirus.

Norovirus outbreak suspected

11 years ago
Duration 1:34
Dozens of people who fell ill at a Victoria journalism conference are under voluntary quarantine

Several people who attended a student journalism conference in Victoria last week remained under voluntary quarantine in their hotel rooms Monday because of a suspected outbreak of norovirus.

Paramedics were called to the Victoria hotel where delegates at a student journalism conference became ill, possibly because of a norovirus. (CBC)

About 60 of the 360 delegates to the Canadian University Press' annual NASH conference for student journalists, held at the Harbour Towers Hotel and Suites, came down with flu-like symptoms Saturday night.

Five staffers from the University of New Brunswick's Brunswickan flew home on Sunday, as scheduled, including the newspaper's editor-in-chief, Christopher Cameron.

But two who fell ill stayed behind, along with two others, who are now showing symptoms of the highly contagious gastrointestinal illness, which include vomiting, diarrhea, cramping, headaches and muscle aches.

"A lot of the students did end up going to the hospital, any that were having any serious, I guess, effects [of] the virus," said Cameron.

"And they did have paramedics on scene, right outside the hotel, they had two or three ambulances for students that really needed to get to the hospital."

The school newspaper will have to pick up the extra cost of rebooking flights for the sick students, Cameron said.

Students get outbreak updates through Twitter

Amy Badry, one of 12 University of Calgary students attending the conference, said that during the quarantine, information was poorly communicated.

Badry said delegates were left to do their own research and call hospitals, all the while looking to Twitter for updates on the situation. 

"The co-ordinators were unprepared for this, so it's something to think about when an event like this happens," Badry said. "What is the best way to disseminate information to the people affected by it? And the best way is not through Twitter."

Badry said she didn't fall ill but four other Calgary students did when the outbreak hit during the conference gala.

"We were all dressed up and running outside and people were just vomiting everywhere," she said. 

Six out of 10 students from the Aquinian at St. Thomas University in Fredericton also got sick.

"While we haven't had it confirmed, we're pretty sure its Norwalk virus given how it presented and developed," said Suzanne Germain of the Vancouver Island Health Authority.

"We suspect a student, or a few students, contracted this somehow — it takes one to two days to incubate — then they travelled to the meeting, and then it spread quite rapidly among the student group."

Noroviruses are found in the stool or vomit of infected people.

People can become infected through direct contact with an infected person, by touching contaminated surfaces or objects, or by eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated.

Symptoms usually last only 48 to 72 hours.

The 74th NASH conference began Wednesday and ended Sunday in Victoria. It was hosted by the Martlet, the student newspaper at the University of Victoria, and the Nexus, the paper for students at Camosun College.