There are 77 individuals with symptoms of the highly contagious norovirus, but only seven of those are confirmed cases so far, Kavanaugh Breazeale, the deputy chief of public affairs and communications for U.S. Army Central, told Army Times.
“We’re working diligently to identify those who are infected with the virus to ensure that it doesn’t spread more,” Breazeale said. “[Norovirus] causes basically very, very harsh symptoms like food poisoning.”
Reports of norovirus began last week, with the first flight out of Kuwait having a soldier pulled from it occurring Friday, according to Breazeale.
The Army isn’t yet sure where the outbreak started, but norovirus does commonly spread through food contamination.
U.S. Army Central doesn’t expect this outbreak to impact current operations.
Of the personnel with symptoms, 75 are at Camp Arifjan, and two more are at Camp Buehring, which is roughly 150 kilometers northwest, past Kuwait City.
The 75th Combat Support Hospital and the 223rd Preventive Medicine Detachment are responding to the outbreak, according to Breazeale.
Although Camp Arifjan isn’t “locked down,” some of the soldiers were prevented from boarding flights to leave the base, he said.
Additionally, the soldiers who are experiencing symptoms of the virus are currently being quarantined on camp facilities. Personnel attempting to fly out of Kuwait were allowed to do so after those with symptoms were separated out from the rest of the unit.
“We just don’t want it to spread to their families. We don’t want them to go home with it,” Breazeale said.
He added that those who were infected with the virus aren’t all from the same unit.
Norovirus is an extremely contagious virus that causes gastrointestinal illness in its victims, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“A person usually develops symptoms 12 to 48 hours after being exposed to norovirus. Most people with norovirus illness get better within 1 to 3 days,” according to the CDC.
Norovirus symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach pain. The symptoms can lead to dehydration, especially in vulnerable members of the population, such as young children and older adults.
Norovirus outbreaks are the leading cause of illness from contaminated food in the United States, according to the CDC. Most outbreaks occur in “food service settings,” like what a soldier visits at on-base dining facilities.
“Infected food workers are frequently the source of the outbreaks, often by touching ready-to-eat foods, such as raw fruits and vegetables, with their bare hands before serving them,” the CDC writes. “However, any food served raw or handled after being cooked can get contaminated with norovirus.”
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter whose investigations have covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.