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  • Summer camp illness outbreak

    Sounds like at least one camp so far this summer experienced a flu-like outbreak. Can anyone shed some light on what happened, the source, how your troop dealt with it, how the camp dealt with it? Could be valuable information to other units.

  • #2
    One of the reasons I enjoyed the movie "Contagion" was the opening and certain scenes through the movie in which it was obvious all the times so many of us touch our faces with our hands...after touching other things that we share like door knobs, keyboards, money, etc. When you think about viruses most of us can't fathom just how small they are nor how many of them may be 'shared' even with the slightest of touch or airborne contact.
    The symptoms that I have seen at summer camp are similar to those we hear for cruise ships. I don't know for sure what virus it has been but it seems similar to the Norovirus group. If so, it is spread by common contact and does not require a contaminated water supply.

    We talk to the boys in our unit. We make them aware that this kind of virus is a gastrointestinal virus and that it is usually transmitted by oral contact and ingestion of a tiny amount of either the vomit or the sh*t from an infected person. I don't mince words or allow clinical terms to blunt the impact. The impact of the mental image of what I just wrote helps drive home the importance of sanitation.
    Example: Mr. X, the DE, wasn't careful when he wiped himself and forgot to wash his hands afterwards. He went to the trading post and then to his cabin because he felt sick. Little Billie touched the same door handle to the trading post. And then he bought a snack and touched the handle again on his way out. Then he opened the snack and transferred some of Mr. X's 'fecal material' to the snack by eating using his fingers. He didn't wash his hands before he ate the snack. He ate some of Mr. X's 'fecal material'. Mmmmmmmm. Good snack! A virus has just found 'fertile ground' in which to reproduce. Little Billie is about to enjoy a special gift from Mr. X.

    This unit thankfully has avoided having any boys contracting the illness so far. It might be dumb luck but I'd like to think that contrary to what I observe for most scouts, the boys in this unit are more careful to wash their hands frequently and strategically as well as using hand sanitizers when washing isn't as easy. I'm aware that it could be false pride.

    The camp makes these things available and tries to inform the campers of the need to stay clean. The troop tries not to allow sharing plates or utensils or food after it has been served to individuals. Dining hall staff hand plates of food to the boys, there is little or no buffet-style self-serving. I'm suspicious of the 'salad bar'.
    Bathrooms are sanitized with chlorine bleach solutions.
    But if even one person arrives at camp carrying one of these viruses, and if the population shares the facilities in a careless way, it can spread with awesome speed.

    Fortunately, I've never ever had this illness, just observed it in others. It appears to be one heck of a weight loss experience.
    I'm especially proud of the ability to keep my appetite even while the sounds, and sights, and smells of vomit permeate the dining hall. Mmmmmm, green eggs and ham, yum!(This message has been edited by packsaddle)


    • #3
      Having a flu bug or other outbreak is definitely something that can happen whenever you get 300-700 people in the same place for a week, and yes, the poor hand-washing habits of one or two can easily bring down many others. It also doesn't take much for a not-yet-recovered Scout to bring along an airborne bug from home, and have it spread like wildfire within a tent, a lodge, etc. where they're in close quarters with other boys.

      We were at Raymond (near Flagstaff) and there was definitely something going around. Many staffers had a hacking dry cough from the dust clouds; some campsites were hit with either Montezuma's Revenge, and some others weren't affected at all. Not a single one of our Scouts or leaders reported being sick.

      To their credit, the dining hall had hand sanitizer stations available on the way in (good), and the kybos at the sites had liquid soap dispensers (good). The serving line was cafeteria style, and didn't allow non-serving Scouts to come in contact with someone else's food.

      Unfortunately, the dining hall sanitizer stations ran empty on Day 2, and didn't get refilled immediately. That knocked out one good line of defense.

      We started out with a mostly full soap dispenser at our kybo, but by Day 4, it was empty, and the QM's shed only had a 5 gal jug 'o soap for refilling (our enterprising QMs used two styrofoam coffee cups instead of lugging the jug a half mile there and back). So there was a limited timeframe where there was no soap at our kybo. I suspect that there were other kybos that had no soap the entire week, and nobody paid attention to it. Another line of defense, gone.

      There was also nothing for hand sanitizing whatsoever at the porta-blue's staged around the camp to supplement the permanent kybos. Some of our Scouts carry it in their day pack, but many do not.

      The new trading post at Raymond left the doors open whenever it was open for business, so at least that was one opportunity lost for spreading nasties...


      • #4
        Soap and water works great too. There's usually plenty of that around. I found that if used diligently, a bar will last the whole week!



        • #5
          Yes, we tried that. With all the dust being kicked up by the wind and stampeding Scouts, the bar of soap was constantly getting caked in dirt...


          • #6
            Let's see....
            Same camp as Eolsen, but I think a week later.
            showed up on Sunday, started eating in the dining hall Monday lunch.
            Started seeing illness approx 24 hours later.
            Nurse refused to acknowledge that it was anything to do with contagious stuff-- "it's just dehydration, drink this."
            then she says "well it only lasts 24 hours, wait til you stop puking and then start drinking again."
            and then she says "it's certainly not an epidemic, it's only a few people sick."

            Most likely it happened due to extreme overcrowding. Kitchen usually feeds 3-400 people maybe.
            week 1 they had 7-800 people to feed. Kitchen was overwhelmed, needed more of the big sheet pans to serve food in and keep it not too deep so the food would stay hot/cold.
            but they were extra careful for week 1,
            and pretty careful week 2 but people started to get sick
            and week 3 got worse
            week 4 was bad
            week 5 I heard they finally brought in a new kitchen manager, new kitchen staff, bought more big sheet pans, and I think more cold storage was brought in.
            I thik now that it's the last week, they are just about disease free.....
            I know the health dept was out several times, trying to work with them, so they could avoid shutting down the camp.

            I know a bleach brigade of all doorknobs, doors, sink faucet/handles, toilet facilities including port a potties could have certainly helped. That was not specifically done at the first sign of illness and should have been. If one scout got sick in a troop, it would usually get 1/3-1/2 of the boys usually a day or so apart. some people who got sick were not eating in the cafeteria, so they were picking it up elsewhere including a few people who caught it when it was brought home to them, and they were helping unpacking people and supplies from the trailer and washing up puked on clothes and tents and such.

            the mention of hand sanitizer makes think that if anyone was skipping washing up, and just using hand sanitizer that didn't help. it doesn't remove poop type germs, only good water and soap is effective at removing those things. hand sanitizer should only be used on hands that are not visibly soiled, and from the looks of most of the guys returning from camp, they all could have used some soap and water removal of what was on their hands before eating. That certainly is a place that the camp and the troops should have done better which could have slowed the transmission.

            I do have an issue that the camp nurse did not even check in each boy when they arrived at camp. an adult leader turned in med forms, counted forms against the head count of scouts and leaders and sent them on their way. I thought it was protocol for the nurse to at least see each individual scout. the idea is they are supposed to be looking for scouts coming into camp already sick. but if they don't even see the scouts at check in? In the past it was also easier to draw the nurse's attention to the scouts with major health issues (like our scout with a heart condition) so when the scout came back she might have at least hae known hey yeah I remember you have a scout with a heart condition.

            Troop needs more paper towels, spare towels, buckets to catch vomit, extra sleeping bags, extra tents, extra change of clothes, etc.

            and quarters and location of the closest coin opperated laundromat. bringing home week old vomited clothing and sleeping bags is really really horrible....

            to keep bars of soap a bit cleaner, put them in a mesh bag like a small thing of scallions or sometimes tomatoes comes in at the grocery store. add a twistie to the top of the bag. thread a shoe lace thru the mesh and use it to hang it up. then the soap doesn't fall on the floor in the dirt. and the mesh helps you to scrub up easier.


            • #7
              Every boy is taught that their first aid kit should include a bar of soap for cleaning wounds. I always used summer camp to use up my old bar and put a new one in each year. That way I didn't have the boys doing a number on a single bar of troop/patrol soap. When I needed to wash up in the morning, I had my own bar of soap, when I went to the shower, I had my own bar of soap, when I got ready for meals, I had my own bar of soap.

              When it got dropped in the dirt, it was my own fault, but if rinsed off right away it isn't a major problem.

              A Scout is Clean. That Law should be as important as A Scout is Trustworthy.



              • #8
                I attended the ArrowCorps5 project at Goshen back in 2008. Shortly after leaving they closed that camp due to contaminated food. I noticed when I was there that the closest latrine to dining hall did not have a sink trough to wash up before meals. I thought it was strange. I think I was in the Olmstead camp.


                • #9
                  We just got back from a camp in the southwest. Roughly 3-5 boys from each troop came down with vomiting and diarreah for 24 hous followed by fever and listlessness. After coming back home many more boys cam down with it despite efforts to contain it. Not sure if it was related to camp sanitation or if the troops brought it with them. The sanitation at camp was not good so that is the consensus as to where it came from. We think the numbers per troop are higher after leaving. There were few sanitation stations and too many shared buckets for cleaning tables in the mess hall.