Tue, Oct 08, 2019 - Page 5 News List

Gastro outbreak strikes tourist train in Australia

The Guardian

More than 100 people in the past month have contracted gastro in Australia on the 4,352km rail journey between Sydney and Perth.

Authorities said at least two people from the Indian Pacific train had presented to hospital emergency departments with symptoms suspected to be the short-lived norovirus since the beginning of the outbreak in the middle of last month.

“Norovirus is one of these agents that’s actually very hard to control once it’s in the environment,” said Louise Flood, director of South Australian Health’s communicable disease control branch. “It’s a short-lived gastroenteritis, with vomiting and diarrhea as the main symptoms.”

Flood said that the department had been working with the train operator, Great Southern Rail, to control the outbreak, which had its most recent case last week.

“Things like steam-cleaning the carpets and cleaning all the surfaces can help control the outbreak, as well as people who are sick being isolated,” she said. “So when people get unwell making sure they stay in their room to stop spreading it to other people.”

The company has also removed and cleaned curtains as needed, provided alcohol hand gels, and even removed some carriages. The train has completed at least three journeys since without incident.

Flood said that the outbreak was connected to “mainly one section of the train.”

The Indian Pacific journey runs between Sydney on Australia’s Pacific coast to Perth on its Indian Ocean coastline. Holiday packages go up to more than US$10,000 per person, stopping in towns along the southern Australian route.

“Some [infected passengers] have been getting off the train and some have just continued on the train being in isolation,” Flood said. “The people on the Indian Pacific train tend to be older, because that’s just the clientele,” Flood said. “So when you get unwell when you’re older, it can affect you a little more than it does in a young, healthy person.”

Lesley Thompson, 80, told the Sydney Morning Herald that she boarded the train in Sydney on Sept. 11 and fell ill the following day when they stopped in Hahndorf, South Australia.

“I was throwing up everywhere,” Thompson said. “It was vile.”

Thompson was taken to a hospital by ambulance with an irregular heartbeat, the report said.

“Our next stop was Cook on the Nullarbor Plain with a population of four,” she said.

Norovirus is highly contagious and health monitors report about a dozen outbreaks on cruise ships each year.

In 2015 a cruise ship docked in Sydney with more than 180 passengers who had contracted the virus, and two other outbreaks in the US saw more.

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