London Notes

Jan. 24 2002 3:09 PM

London Notes

Virus alert.

Winter vomiting sickness, a viral infection first detected in Scotland, has now spread to Sussex, Hertfordshire, Cornwall, Wales, and Northern Ireland. It's arrival in London is believed to be imminent. The symptoms are very discomforting, and include, nausea, diarrhoea, and what has been described as "projectile vomit". As the Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS), an organisation that monitors the spread of infectious disease in Britain, helpfully explains, the bug—also known as Norwalk virus (after the Ohio town where it was first identified)—is fantastically virulent. "It is caused by an organism called SRSV [small round structured virus]. … This is the most common cause of gut infection in this country. Estimates suggest that there are about 600,000 to one million cases of this disease in England every year." The virus is therefore much more common than salmonella, and much more prevalent in Britain than it is in the United States. The federal government's Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta estimates that only 181,000 Americans contract the virus each year.


Like salmonella, the Norwalk virus thrives off bad practices in large kitchens that cater for hundreds of people—those found on cruise ships, say, or at hospitals, military bases, and big restaurants. Passengers, patients, military personnel, or guests are infected after contact with contaminated food. And these individuals then unwittingly transmit the virus to other people before the symptoms have manifested themselves. (To read the US Army's thorough report on an outbreak of Norwalk virus at Fort Bliss, Texas, in 1998, and the actions taken by doctors to limit the spread of the disease click here.) Three years ago, at a college football game between Florida State and Duke University, a player who didn't realise he had Norwalk virus infected 64 others (teammates as well as members of the opposition).. Or rather, he and the ball did, since many of the players who went down with the bug hadn't come close to him.

In what appears to be an attempt to allay public fears, the PHLS says on its Web site: "Although there are clearly a substantial number of cases of this disease around at the moment, levels do not appear to be out of proportion to those seen in some previous winters." If outbreaks of Norwalk virus in Britain really are as frequent as the PHLS suggests, why is the current outbreak being treated by the press as if it were a new plague?



More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

Why Do Some People See the Virgin Mary in Grilled Cheese?

The science that explains the human need to find meaning in coincidences.


Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

What to Do if You Literally Get a Bug in Your Ear

  News & Politics
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 16 2014 11:46 PM The Scariest Campfire Story More horrifying than bears, snakes, or hook-handed killers.
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.