Students journalism conference ends on a sour note

Norovirus postpones flights home after several students fall ill

Most student journalists attending a conference in Victoria last week were home by Monday, after being delayed because of a suspected outbreak of norovirus.

The national conference, organized by the Canadian University Press, brought 360 attendees to the Harbour Towers hotel on Wednesday.

People started falling ill with the norovirus on Saturday during the awards gala.

“Right after the keynote (address) people started getting sick, including myself,” said Danielle Pope, a writer for Monday Magazine who also attended the conference. “I thought it was food poisonous at first,” she said.

As more people came down with symptoms, however, conference organizers realized it was something else.

“It was very sudden,” and Pope, who suffered blurry vision and numbness in her arms in addition to the standard symptoms, including severe vomiting and diarrhea.

In total, about 30 to 40 people got sick.

“The hotel was very co-operative,” said Shannon Marshall, spokesperson for the Vancouver Island Health Authority. “Our medical health protection officers were onsite Sunday, and really all we did was provide advice.”

Affected students were confined to their room. Many commiserated and stayed in touch through Twitter. Through tweets, Both West Jet and Air Canada were praised for waiving flight cancellation fees for those students who had to stay behind to recover.

Young, healthy adults will recover on their own in 24- to 48 hours, said Marshall.

norovirus. is highly contagious and spreads through the fecal-oral route. Outbreaks have occurred in cruise ships, schools and care facilities.

“People get infected after drinking water or eating food that’s contaminated with the feces or vomit from an infected person,” Marshall. There is no treatment, she said, adding hand washing is the best defence.

To date, the health authority has seen no spike in cases of norovirus among the general population.