“Vomit disease” strikes newspaper staff

As November snowfall heralds the beginning of the Swedish winter, so does another, more unwelcome, seasonal visitor: vomit disease.

According to Monday’s Dagens Nyheter the first reports of the illness came in to the Institute for Infectious Diseases at the beginning of October. But the cold snap in the last few days has coincided with a rapid spreading, and as far as doctors are concerned, it’s back.

“In the last week it’s increased noticeably,” said Kerstin Mannerqvist, a hygiene nurse at the institute.

So how do you know if you’ve got it? By all accounts, that won’t be a problem – as Aftonbladet graphically explained:

“It usually starts with sudden, explosive vomiting.” You may also feel poorly throughout your whole body and have bouts of diarrhoea, but for a healthy person it is unlikely to last long.

Kjell-Olof Hedlund, the head of microbiology at the Institute for Infectious Diseases told Aftonbladet that the progress of the illness is fast.

“As a rule you’re completely unprepared when it begins,” he said. “For most people it’s only really wretched for a short while and it’s soon over, usually in two or three days.”

The paper’s web site carried advice from another employee at the Institute for Infectious Diseases, epidemiologist Yvonne Andersson.

“Wash your hands and put the toilet lid down,” she advised readers, who could have been forgiven for thinking that they simply had to display good manners to avoid the disease.

But the problem is that it is highly infectious and, Yvonne explained, “if someone has just vomited in the toilet it’s very easy for the next person to go in to be infected”. She suggested that people who are infected should stay home for work until it has completely cleared up.

Workers in Stockholm’s Marieberg tower, which houses the newspapers Dagens Nyheter, Expressen and City, are probably wishing that a number of their colleagues had heeded her advice. According to Monday’s Dagens Media around 150 people in the building fell ill at the end of last week and the head of personnel at DN, Eva Ritsinger, said that it was the vomit disease.

“To say that the stomach sickness took out the whole editorial office isn’t quite true,” she said. “But many have caught the bug.”

Eva Ritsinger told Dagens Media that toilets are being cleaned every hour and staff have been told not to return until they’ve had a full day free of symptoms.

“We still haven’t found the source yet,” she admitted. No doubt when they do they’ll keep it secret.

The majority of people afflicted, though are normally hospital patients and staff. But in the extremely cold winter of 2002-2003, said DN, a million Swedes were infected.

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Aftonbladet, Dagens Media