Island Health says the “winter vomiting bug” that hit the Rick Lapointe Memorial hockey tournament in Greater Victoria is common, especially in the winter.
The Bantam hockey tournament was cut short for some after many of the young players, parents and spectators began having norovirus-like symptoms as the weekend progressed.
The outbreak was reported to Island Health by the tournament organizers on Dec. 6. On the Saturday, ill players were asked not to play and some teams pulled out of the tournament and went home, explained Dr. Dee Hoyano, a medical health officer for Island Health.
The main emphasis was on keeping ill players away, but the tournament was allowed to continue if the remaining healthy players were willing to play, she noted. Those who stayed to play had to take precautions as directed by Island Health.
Hoyano explained that norovirus is one of the most common gastrointestinal illnesses and is very contagious. She noted that in a situation like the tournament where people are in close quarters for meals, activities and sleeping, it’s not difficult to be exposed.
Very little exposure is even needed to contract the virus, Hoyano emphasized. The virus can survive on surfaces for a long time and is tough to kill without bleach.
The outbreak at the hockey tournament was fairly typical, she explained. A high percentage of people living in close quarters getting ill can be expected. Hoyano emphasized that the virus can be spread for some time before and after symptoms are present. Thorough handwashing with warm, soapy water is the best way to protect against the illness.
Michelle Tice’s son, a player for the Hollyburn Huskies, has Type 1 diabetes and was one many athletes to fall ill during the tournament. She feels the outbreak is a good reminder to everyone to be careful and to help protect vulnerable people.
For a healthy kid, you know they’ll pull through, Tice explained. But for her son, excess vomiting can result in hospitalization as it can affect his insulin levels. Tice didn’t panic because she knew how to handle the situation, but she noted things could have taken a turn for the worst.
Tice’s son’s team decided to head home to West Vancouver on Saturday afternoon. They stayed in their cars to limit the spread of the virus as advised.
Tice sees the outbreak as a learning opportunity for people. She noted that as word of the outbreak spread, she heard people remarking that “kids are resilient.” She pointed out that while some kids are, they may come in contact with people who aren’t. Her cousin had come to watch the tournament and was hospitalized after contracting the virus because she’d recently had heart surgery.
“It’s not just your resilient kid you need to worry about, it’s the whole community,” Tice said.
Hoyano commended the tournament organizers for their swift reporting and action.
Tice feels the situation can serve as a warning to those organizing tournaments in the future. A risk management plan should be created just in case, she noted.
Tice’s son is feeling better now and is glad to have avoided the hospital. He’s now looking forward to getting back on the ice.