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Published On: Wed, Aug 14th, 2013

Michigan health officials say ‘Tough Mudder’ norovirus outbreak likely due to infected participant

In a follow up to a story last month, epidemiologists with the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) say that conclusions from the investigation into the norovirus outbreak, in which some 200 people were sickened, was likely introduced onto the course by an ill participant, according to a MDCH news release.

Feedback from event attendees shows that the majority of ill individuals were likely exposed on the course itself, as illness was highly associated with reports of mud or muddy water in the mouth-MDCH Image/Video Screen Shot

Feedback from event attendees shows that the majority of ill individuals were likely exposed on the course itself, as illness was highly associated with reports of mud or muddy water in the mouth-MDCH
Image/Video Screen Shot

The norovirus outbreak was associated with the Tough Mudder event held in Brooklyn, Mich. on June 29-30, 2013.

Health authorities say feedback from event attendees shows that the majority of ill individuals were likely exposed on the course itself, as illness was highly associated with reports of mud or muddy water in the mouth.

Due to the size of the event, participants started the course in waves over several hours on Saturday and Sunday. The frequency of reported illness increased dramatically in participants starting in the first several hours on Saturday and remained steady throughout the rest of the weekend.

This indicates that contamination was likely introduced onto the course by an ill participant early in the event and persisted for the duration of the weekend.

Noroviruses are a group of viruses that cause the “stomach flu,” or gastroenteritis in people.

The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and some stomach cramping. Sometimes people additionally have a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and a general sense of tiredness. The illness often begins suddenly, and the infected person may feel very sick. In most people, the illness is self-limiting with symptoms lasting for about 1 or 2 days. In general, children experience more vomiting than adults do.

Norovirus is spread person to person particularly in crowded, closed places. Norovirus is typically spread through contaminated food and water, touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus and then putting your hand or fingers in your mouth and close contact with someone who is vomiting or has diarrhea.

The highly contagious norovirus is the second leading infectious cause of gastroenteritis-associated deaths accounting for 800 annually. Norovirus causes more than 20 million illnesses annually, and it is the leading cause of gastroenteritis outbreaks in the United States.

MDCH says good personal hygiene, including frequent hand washing with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds, is an effective way to prevent the spread of the disease. Hand sanitizers alone are ineffective at reducing norovirus transmission.

The Tough Mudder organization is working in partnership with MDCH and the Lenawee County Health Department (LCHD) to identify measures to minimize the risk of a similar occurrence at future events. Recognizing the risk of transmission from ill participants at this type of event, public health and Tough Mudder officials are collaborating to develop methods of communicating this risk to future participants and promoting voluntary exclusion of symptomatic individuals from participation. Tough Mudder is also developing strategies and policies to ensure the health and safety of participants in future events.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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