Officials say hygiene can halt
viral outbreak at Scout camp
Yards Creek Scout Reservation
George Washington Council
The Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ)
July 27, 1996 p008
Byline: Art Charlton
"A Scout is Clean" is number 11 in the 12-point Boy Scout Law.
State health officials are advising strict adherence to that tenet in the next few days to stop the spread of a virus at a Scout camp in Warren County, where more than 50 youths and staffers have fallen ill this month.
The unidentified illness making the rounds of campers and staff at the Yards Creek Scout Reservation in Blairstown is believed to be spread by poor hygiene, officials from the state and county health departments said yesterday.
"They really need to concentrate on good hygiene at the camp," acting State Epidemiologist Lyn Finelli said, explaining that hand washing after using the latrine should halt transmission of the virus. "It's kind of the simplest thing you can imagine." Finelli said there are no particular lab tests available to determine what exactly has been causing the nausea and vomiting experienced by campers at the Scout reservation.
"It would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. They could have one of a hundred viral agents," she said.
But health officials and camp directors said they don't believe either food or water at the camp is responsible. Camp officials said the water is tested weekly to meet strict standards set by the state and by the Boy Scouts.
If something the campers ate was the cause, more of the Scouts would be sick and the illness would have struck everyone at about the same time, said Mike King, senior sanitarian with the Warren County Health Department.
Instead, King said, "It's a stream of cases. Each day there's a few more." As of yesterday morning, 46 campers and eight staff members had reported becoming ill during the three weeks of camp.
The illness runs its course in six to 30 hours, Finelli noted.
The 510-acre reservation, perched on the Kittatinny Ridge about seven miles from the Delaware Water Gap, is owned by the George Washington Council of the Boy Scouts of America. Scouts primarily from Warren, Hunterdon and Mercer counties use the camp, although a troop from Morris County is there this week.
Camp activities continued normally yesterday as health officials wrapped up their interviews with campers and staff who have been hit by the bug.
Ron Green, Scout executive for the George Washington Council, said the camp is cooperating with health officials and added that there have been no cancellations as word of the illness got out. Camp Director Jeff Norton said two or three Scouts have gone home after getting sick.
The camp has received "a handful" of calls from parents and Scout leaders seeking information about the ailment, Green said. Finelli said the state also has gotten calls from concerned parents, adding that the callers are being reassured that the illness comes and goes quickly without complications.
Finelli said a list of recommendations to improve hygiene will be discussed with camp staff today, and reviewed with the new group of campers arriving tomorrow. The state also is recommending the camp set up a special campsite to isolate those who become ill, to limit the disease from spreading.
Green said the fourth and last regular one-week session of camp starts tomorrow, while a fifth week of special skill camps for older Scouts, covering areas such as leadership training, aquatics and sports, takes place before the reservation closes for the summer.
(note: I recall that summer. It was awful. Each week we would get reports of troops coming back from YCSR with scouts and leaders being sick. When our turn arrived to visit the camp, we took many bottles of water. It would be difficult to prove, but I think we did not send anyone home sick. ... jos)
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August 18, 2005