The California delegation to the Republican National Convention brought 341 attendees to Cleveland — and one very contagious case of norovirus.
Since then, at least a dozen RNC attendees from California have been quarantined in their hotel rooms with norovirus, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The Californians are staying at the Kalahari Resorts in nearby Sandusky, Ohio. It boasts an indoor water park with "an exciting mix of rides, slides, and adventure" — an ideal environment for a virus to spread.
STAT has one of the most in-depth reports available on how, exactly, the disease spread through the group:
Jim Brulte, the California delegation chairman, told STAT in an email that the trouble started when one of the staff members who arrived ahead of the delegation came down with a virus and infected her husband.
He said the staff members who are showing symptoms are being quarantined until they’ve gone at least 24 hours without showing symptoms.
"To the best of our knowledge," Brulte said, delegation staff members were the only people affected.
The hotel where the staff members are staying has a large indoor water park — the sort of environment in which the virus could thrive.
Brulte said the delegation has added hand sanitizer stations at the Sandusky hotel and that the executive director has sent an email to the delegates advising them on precautions to take. He added, however, that some delegates and alternates are staying at two other locations in the area.
Norovirus is an especially unpleasant disease, which causes long bouts of vomiting and diarrhea. It's typically not fatal among those in good health. Yet it's one that we don’t actually talk about very much, possibly because of the unappetizing nature of the illness.
"We don't really talk much about norovirus, an extremely contagious bug spread by — prepare yourself — ingesting the stool or vomit of an infected person, often through food or touching a contaminated surface," my colleague Julia Belluz reported earlier this year. "Since there are so many strains of the virus, people don't typically develop lifelong immunity once they've been infected, leaving them vulnerable to multiple bouts of severe diarrhea or vomiting in their lifetime."
Public health researchers want that to change. They estimate that nearly 700 million people become infected with norovirus each year, way more than the population that experiences food poisoning. Perhaps the RNC outbreak will bring the renewed attention to norovirus that researchers have yearned for.