Public healthCDC concludes NBA outbreak investigation
A recently concluded investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that norovirus was the cause of an outbreak that sidelined more than twenty-four NBA players and staff members from thirteen teams in 2010
A recently concluded investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that norovirus was the cause of an outbreak that sidelined more than twenty-four NBA players and staff members from thirteen teams in 2010.
Norovirus is a highly contagious virus that causes gastroenteritis. Symptoms include severe vomiting and diarrhea.
Between 28 November and 8 December, media outlets reported that twenty NBA players from thirteen teams in eleven different states had been hit with a “stomach virus” which prompted CDC to launch its investigation.
“We’ve seen this in athletic settings in the past,” said Dr. Rishi Desai, the lead CDC researcher for the investigation. “However, it’s never been seen in professional settings.”
For the study, Desai’s team contacted physicians from all thirty NBA teams to determine whether any players or staff had gastroenteritis symptoms. 400 players and 378 staff members were checked for symptoms and twenty-one players and three staff members were found to have gastroenteritis.
Further testing revealed that four of them had tested positive for norovirus.
The virus is easily spread from person to person via contaminated food or water and by touching contaminated surfaces. It is considered to be the leading cause of foodborne-disease outbreaks in the United States and each year the virus sickens 21 million people.
During the CDC’s investigation thirteen teams played forty-nine games against one another, and in the two instances CDC identified as potential opportunities to spread the disease, players and staff members developed gastroenteritis within seventy-hours of both games.
Norovirus outbreaks are relatively common, but Dr. Desai said CDC’s findings were important nonetheless.
“This is an illustrative outbreak,” he explained. “This illustrates beautifully the point we are trying to make about noroviruses. In a setting where there is a lot of vigilance about disease, you still have outbreaks. So it really points out how infectious it is, and the things we can do to prevent it.”
To help limit future outbreaks, sick NBA players must be identified or report their symptoms immediately so they can be isolated. Professional players are particularly at risk of catching the virus as they spend long hours in close quarters with teammates in airplanes, hotel rooms, buses, and locker rooms.
Meanwhile schools and other teams are encouraged by the CDC to disinfect locker rooms and other common areas with a “sodium hypochlorite solution or other product effective against norovirus.”