Quick Hit: Wiscon gets its own strain of Norovirus

In this week’s WisCon newsletter comes news which seems relevant to the science geeks among us: the strain of norovirus which hit the WisCon feminist science fiction conference in 2008 has been officially named after the conference!  It’s called AY502008 (Wiscon), as seen in this recent PLoS One paper.

Since the outbreak, WisCon has put a lot of effort into ensuring safe food-handling at the event, and my impression has been that this has reduced the amount of “con crud” (con-related colds and flus) in a pretty big way.  I think it’s one of those little things that gets easily forgotten in organizing conferences, but “not getting attendees sick” is also an accessibility issue for folks with compromised immune systems.

4 thoughts on “Quick Hit: Wiscon gets its own strain of Norovirus

  1. Mary

    People who are ill or have lower defences to illness also benefit from having their ability to sleep protected. This is a hobby horse of mine, which I’ll just ride for a sec:

    * providing after hours party space, or have designated “no party” corridors in accommodation or similar, can reduce after hours noise and thus impact on the sleep of people who need it

    * busing attendees off to parties at remote locations etc forces a difficult choice on anyone who might get tired early: don’t go at all, or go and potentially suffer for it when you are trapped there

  2. Sasha_Feather

    Thanks for writing about this, Leigh! I’m going to link it at access-fandom.dreamwidth.org

    Ingrid, thanks for pointing that out. Is the “Wiscon” bit in the PLoS one article a misnomer, should it simply be labeled “Wisconsin”? If so, does anyone know if the WisCon norovirus is a unique strain or not?

  3. Ingrid Jakobsen

    As far as I can tell, the authors of the PLoS One article just abbreviated “Wisconsin” – they don’t seem to have had an organised naming system, since “Winchester” and “Amsterdam” aren’t abbreviated, and that may have misled the WisCon person who found the paper.

    (I’m guessing someone is running a google alert or similar for keywords including “wiscon” and “norovirus”, since I would expect anyone who happened to be reading a paper like this and noticed the “Wiscon” would be familiar with GenBank accession numbers and how to look them up. It’s an unfortunate coincidence that this particular accession number ends in “2008” but it has no significance, it’s just the sequence after AY502007 and before AY502009 in the database.)

    I wasn’t at WisCon in 2008. Unless someone knows definitely that a norovirus sample was collected and tested, I’d assume it wasn’t, and we’ll never know the details of the strain involved.

    Oh, and I’d like to commend WisCon for improved food handling rules. It’s a very hard thing to get people to care about, but infectious diseases have killed far more people than wars, and seem to have had a major impact on human (genetic) evolution in the last 100,000 years.

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