Health officials in Alabama announced late last week that they were looking into an outbreak of some kind of gastrointestinal illness affecting more than 2 dozen people in Montgomery. At the time, Alabama Department Of Public Health, or ADPH, would not speculate on the exact pathogen responsible or on the food or water source that could have spread the apparent infection.
Yesterday, however, that all changed. The estimated 25 to 30 sick people are believed to be suffering from norovirus. Test so far have turned up 3 confirmed cases with more undoubtedly to come.
ADPH still refuses to speculate on the source. The agency says only that it is surveying apparent victims and sifting through the available data. “It is too early to draw conclusions about the source of the outbreak,” said spokesperson Mary McIntyre. McIntyre is Chief Medical Officer at the agency.
Norovirus is believed to be the most common cause of “food poisoning”, sickening over 900,000 worldwide every year. It is highly contagious and is thought to be most often spread by food workers who do not properly wash their hands before handling customers’ food. (Anyone infected with norovirus can still spread the infection for at least 2 weeks after falling ill themselves.)
Norovirus is also the pathogen responsible for some of the worst outbreaks on cruise ships. It caused at least 11 onboard outbreaks in 2016 and has been confirmed in at least 1 outbreak already this year.