The death toll in one of Europe’s worst health disasters has jumped to 68, as health officials confirmed the death of a patient from Germany. The patient, who suffered a pulmonary infection, developed complications from being in the country’s emergency hospital unit — where entire families stayed, squabbling over who would sleep on the floor and who wouldn’t. It was common for them to argue over the limited supply of rationed drugs, which meant that hospital medics were instructed to put patients on a running list so that one could take the rest that was needed. Over the past few months, stories of survival have shown that this kind of can be just as toxic as a deadly disease. Pictures of families living in close quarters without phones, heat or air conditioning may not seem like an entirely happy utopia, but it is a world where disease is widespread and the chance of a cold day’s work killing you is lower than in modern hospitals, and where you probably will not have to be buzzed into a hospital by a maligned nurse. The bottom line, the number of people contracting norovirus is extraordinarily high, and the average person has no immunity to it, because humans share bacteria and viruses with animals, that haven’t been engineered to kill us. In addition, the virus is highly infectious, so its landing zone is minimal, and the radius that catches the virus is very narrow. It can be spread simply by eating food from infected livestock, including swine and poultry. A 10-kilometer radius, the size of a typical city road, is enough to trigger a fatal outbreak. The most likely way you will catch norovirus is through contact with a sick person, and the virus’s best virus-spreaders are those who are stuck in hospitals and schools. Norovirus can’t harm people who have the virus-fighting immune system already, but it has been proven to cause permanent brain damage if it hits them again. The best thing people can do is wash their hands after touching the virus’s environmental habitats, and don’t share food or drink. Doctors are emphasizing those two points to try to prevent a surge in norovirus, but anyone staying in one of the 70,000 hospitals in Europe is well advised to prepare for the worst. The death toll is high right now because a major vaccination program failed to roll out in time. Otherwise, norovirus would have been stamped out by now. And it’s not clear whether the recent spate of cases in Germany can be linked to the vaccination disaster. More than 3,000 Germans have gotten sick in recent weeks, and patients have been confined to the hospital wing fighting off infection in one of the World’s most clean, sober environments.

Read the full story at The Independent.


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