Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Norovirus in a confined space

I am currently down at Scott Base, Antarctica, heading out into the field tomorrow for two to three weeks' scientific work.

The base is on high alert, but not because of weather or acts of terrorism etc.  The concern this time is the outbreak of norovirus at McMurdo Station, which is only just over the hill from here and is normally visited regularly by both scientists and service personnel.

We are taking extreme precautions; the Thursday night American Night has been cancelled and visitors are strongly discouraged if not completely barred.  There are hand sanitiser pumps throughout the base and it is a requirement to sanitise hands before entering the mess.  Communal food items, such as loaves of bread are not to be handled with bare hands, because the virus can easily be transmitted on surfaces.  The bathrooms and toilets are being regularly sanitised and there too, there are warning signs that hands must be washed with soap and water and hand sanitiser is freely available.

It is to be hoped that the virus doesn't make it over to Scott Base - there are several projects kicking off now, and many more scientific teams will be arriving shortly, to the extent that some teams are being asked to reschedule their time at Scott Base to free up bunk room space.  An outbreak here could be catastrophic for the scientific programme, not to mention the misery for the victims.