State Health Department Issues Health Advisory to Summer Camps After Month of Increases in Gastrointestinal Outbreaks

Health Commissioner urges camps, parents, community to take precautions to prevent gastrointestinal illness

ALBANY, N.Y. (August 7, 2008) – During the past month, there has been a significant increase in the number of viral gastrointestinal (GI) outbreaks reported in summer camps in New York State. There is concern that some of the children arriving at summer camp may acquire illness and then may further transmit it, unless appropriate precautions are taken.

State health officials have issued a Health Advisory to all overnight camp directors, camp medical staff, camp emergency medical services and camp infirmary services alerting them to the outbreaks, and providing them with measures to take to prevent the introduction and spread of GI illness at camp.

Caliciviruses, commonly known as norovirus or Norwalk virus, are a common cause of these illnesses. These viruses may be transmitted by exposure to infected people, who may shed the virus for several days after symptoms are gone, or through contaminated food and water. The viruses generally spread from person to person by direct contact and/or by touching contaminated surfaces or objects. The incubation period, the time it takes to develop an illness after exposure to the virus, is one to two days.

"Summer camp is a time for fun, but the health, safety and well-being of our children is our priority," said state Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. "It is most important that all of us—camp medical and non-medical staff, parents and the community—be diligent in taking the necessary steps to prevent the introduction and spread of this viral infection."

To reduce the risk of acquiring or spreading the infection:

  • Wash hands thoroughly after each bathroom visit and before preparing and consuming food.
  • People who experience nausea, vomiting or diarrhea should not attend camp. If people become ill while at camp, they should not participate in activities with well campers, should not go swimming, and should not handle food for others, until the symptoms are gone for at least 72 hours.

Although the virus is easily spread, especially where people are living in close quarters, serious illness rarely occurs, and infected people generally recover in one to two days. The most common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps but a low-grade fever, chills, headache and fatigue may also be present.

No specific treatment is available, but people who are ill with vomiting and diarrhea should drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Young children, elderly persons and persons with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes or metabolic disorders are at risk for developing more severe complications and should contact their health care providers at the first sign of illness.

For more information on Norwalk virus infection, visit

For information on children's camps, visit