A stomach flu has laid low 1 in every 10 cadets at the Air Force Academy since late October, and the school’s medics are working with public health authorities and reinforcements from other bases to treat the sick.
The norovirus, famed for striking those in tight living confines from cruise ships to barracks, has caused the academy to cancel some events that include large gatherings and put its janitorial staff on overtime.
“Our cadets and support staff are our main concern,” the school said in an emailed statement. “We have acted quickly with all the appropriate intervention steps, in cooperation with our medical group team, our cadre and leadership at all levels, and the cadet wing leadership to help stop the spread.”
Norovirus strikes quickly; symptoms include nausea and diarrhea. Outbreaks have caused some Colorado public schools to close their doors in recent days to let the virus pass, but that’s not an option at the academy.
The academy has dealt with rapidly spreading illnesses before, once dealing with a flu outbreak during basic training that kept hundreds of cadets in their tents. This outbreak, hitting at the heart of the school’s fall semester, has left athletic teams shorthanded, but hasn’t stopped the academy’s legendarily rigorous schedule.
Though 400 cadets have been sickened, the other 3,600 have stayed in class and kept up with military training. All cadets live in two dormitories on the campus, which features a single, massive academic building and one massive dining hall.
“The primary means of cure are rest and consumption of plenty of fluids, since the biggest danger to those with norovirus is dehydration,” the academy said.
The illness is so well-known around the school that a guard at the academy’s gates offered a warning Tuesday.
“Watch out. They’re all sick up there,” she said.
The school said it has reinforced lessons on hand-washing and taken other steps to arrest the virus.
“Infected cadets have been placed on bed rest for at least 72 hours after their symptoms resolve and they are cleared for duty by qualified medical personnel,” the academy said.
Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240 Twitter: @xroederx