Hundreds of Chinese students hospitalised for norovirus: Xinhua

BEIJING (AFP) - Almost 400 Chinese students were hospitalised following an outbreak of the highly contagious and sometimes deadly stomach bug norovirus in a school in the country's northeast, state media reported on Thursday (May 18).

Some 381 students at the No. 2 Experimental School in the city of Fuyu in Jilin province were taken to hospital after suffering vomiting, diarrhoea and fever, according to the official Xinhua news agency, adding that 125 had been discharged by Thursday evening.

The outbreak was caused by bacteria in the school's filtered water supply, the report said, citing medical staff at the hospital.

The school, which has more than 10,000 students, pipes water on to campus, Xinhua said, adding that the supply had been temporarily stopped.

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Norovirus is best known for striking down tourists aboard cruise ships. Cases usually occur after faecal matter infects drinking water.

The illness is rarely life-threatening but is highly contagious. It spreads via an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces.

Most people recover from its effects in two or three days but there is no vaccine or treatment.

The virus kills about 219,000 people per year worldwide and affects nearly 700 million, resulting in some US$4.2 billion (S$5.8 billion) in health care costs annually, according to a study released by Johns Hopkins University last month.

Over 4,000 people fell ill with the virus in Spain last month in what was believed to be the first time it was found in bottled water.