A reusable grocery bag left in a hotel bathroom caused an outbreak of norovirus-induced diarrhea and nausea that struck nine of 13 members of a girls' soccer team in October, Oregon researchers reported Wednesday. The outbreak also affected many family members after the team returned home.
Norovirus is a common, easily spread virus that causes various forms of gastric distress. It is "the perfect human pathogen" because it is highly contagious, rapidly and prolifically spread, produces limited immunity and is only moderately virulent, which allows it to continue spreading, said Dr. Aron J. Hall of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in an editorial accompanying the report in the Journal of Infectious Diseases. In the United States alone, noroviruses are responsible for an estimated 21 million acute cases of gastroenteritis annually, with more than 70,000 hospitalizations and nearly 800 deaths. Worldwide, the virus accounts for more than half of all diarrheal diseases, causing the deaths of 200,000 children annually.