About 20 people were treated for norovirus infections during the days immediately after this year’s Syttende Mai celebration, according to Longyearbyen health officials who said the origin of the outbreak is unknown.
Guests with two separate groups at an eatery in Longyearbyen sought treatment May 18 and 19 after suffering symptoms including vomiting and diarrhea, said John Shaft Bilicz, head of the medical department at Longyearbyen Hospital, in an interview with NRK. He said the hospital sent stool samples from the patients to health officials in Tromsø, who made the norovirus diagnosis.
Although initial speculation is the patients were infected at the eatery, Bilicz said that does not appear to be the case and determining the origin of the virus will likely not be possible.
“There are no reports of new cases in recent days,” he told NRK. “We also believe this is an outbreak that has been locally confined here in Longyearbyen.”
“If it had happened in a kindergarten or in the hospital, the problems have been greater. We would then have had to close down entire segments to get rid of the virus.”
Norovirus is a highly contageous illness that spread both through the air and by physical contact. Cases on cruises ships are common, including an outbreak infecting many of the 580 people on a Portuguese ship that docked in Longyearbyen last year, resulting in significant restrictions on who was allowed to disembark.