Natalie Timperio

Senior InsideOut Editor

 

Get me the fuck out of here. 

I don’t often drop the F-bomb, but in times of utter chaos and confusion (because truly, that’s exactly what the situation was like for me), swearing becomes the only form of emotional release.

Sadly, no matter how many times I repeated those words, I found myself in the one place I didn’t want to be: Harbour Towers Hotel and Suites in Victoria, B.C. for NASH 74, an annual weekend-long conference for university student journalists.

Don’t get me wrong, the sessions and speakers were great. But if you’ve been following the news, you’ll know that, on the final night, there was a norovirus outbreak among some of the conference delegates.

Norovirus is highly contagious, causing severe vomiting and diarrhea, in addition to muscle aches and headaches. And, yes, while you’ve no doubt heard the words “highly contagious” used before, allow me to paint you a picture of just how infectious this monster was.

At around 8 p.m. one of my fellow Sil editors, who also happened to be one of my conference roommates, fell ill with the virus. Shortly thereafter, another editor became sick. In a few hours time, multiple other delegates reported being ill.

Any doubts I may have had about these “other delegates” were quickly disproven by the arrival of ambulances and an extreme influx in toilet flushing.

While in total four of the six co-workers I was with fell ill with the virus I, along with two others, somehow managed to avoid infection. It’s times like these that I’m grateful for a strong immune system.  It’s also times like these that I’m grateful for social networking.

As Saturday evening meshed into Sunday morning, I can’t quite recall when exactly I began to check Twitter – as if hashtags and mentions could spare me from severe vomiting and diarrhea. Yet somehow I managed to pick up my phone as if it were a godsend, brought here to take me away from the mess in which I had quite literally come to find myself.

While some tweets claimed the virus to be a result of underhanded terrorist warfare, most others proved to be valuable, up-to-the-minute information sources. I quickly discovered it wasn’t merely a few people who were ill – it was dozens. Another F-bomb emerged from my lips. In a matter of hours, tweets poured in confirming cases of sudden and violent puking amongst delegates, so much so that our final-night event was cancelled. F-bomb, F-bomb, F-bomb.

In between the curses, tears and nervous fits of shaking, I found comfort in the fact that somehow this had become a communal experience, and that my worries were shared by my fellow delegates.

I should mention that, initially, none of us had any idea that this was norovirus. In fact, I believe most of us suspected it be a result of food poisoning, since we had all been eating the same meals. Nonetheless, Twitter became a forum in which we could float educated guesses at the cause of this sudden and widespread illness.

In time, tweets confirmed that the illness was in fact norovirus, providing information on the causes, symptoms and treatments of the virus.

Essentially, if not for Twitter, there’s no doubt in my mind that disseminating information would have been far more delayed.

And while that may be stating the obvious, it’s not until times of crisis that you fully come to appreciate the value of modern technology and social media services.

I’ll advise all those who refuse to “get with the times” to get with the times – you’ll never know when a freakish (and possibly zombie-related) virus will be upon you.

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