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The Varsity

The University of Toronto's
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Mystery illness hits student journalism conference, everybody pukes

Delegates live-tweet vomiting epidemic; alcohol not to blame (sorry, Hemingway)

By Erene Stergiopoulos
Published: 12:03 pm, 15 January 2012
Modified: 1 pm, 15 January 2012
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UPDATED

In what is now being dubbed the “Great Puking Debacle of NASH 74,” student journalists from across the country who attended Canadian University Press’s 74th National Conference (or “NASH”) in Victoria, BC were hit with a plague-like puking epidemic Saturday evening at the conference’s gala.

Rumours of the vomiting outbreak surfaced on Twitter late Saturday evening, when conference delegates began reporting symptoms and nausea and vomiting episodes after dinner. Initial reports pointed to the possibility of alcohol poisoning (a culprit for earlier conference mishaps); historically, journalists have been known to find solace in the bottle. (We don’t actually have proof for that, but we have Hemingway).

Officials have now confirmed that the outbreak is most likely due to Norovirus, formerly known as the Norwalk virus. Norovirus is a common cause of gastroenteritis (or stomach flu), which includes symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Ambulances are stationed outside the Harbour Towers Hotel in Victoria, BC. DAN SELJAK/THE VARSITY

On Twitter, conference delegates live-tweeted new cases of the infection. As one attendee tweeted, “I was just puked on and as a result puked myself. It’s awful.”

The latest report from The Lambda, Laurentian’s student newspaper, estimates that the virus affected 61 people, representing staff from 30 student newspapers in Canada, out of a conference of over 300 delegates.

University of Toronto newspapers The Strand and The Mike were present at the conference. From Toronto, student journalists who did not attend the conference stood by to track news of the outbreak.

“Pics or it didn’t happen,” tweeted Varsity editor-in-chief, Tom Cardoso in reference to the sickness that had swept through the conference. As a non-member of Canadian University Press, The Varsity did not participate in NASH.

The outbreak is the most recent example of live-tweeted epidemics, a phenomenon studied by scientists last year in response to swine flu trends on Twitter. Evidence of the NASH 74 outbreak’s progression can be found on Twitter under #NASH74.