NoroCORE ran a mock norovirus outbreak experience from its booth at the Food Safety Summit and ended up infecting 202 people the first day, and 172 the next.

The company mapped out all of the data points to track the outbreak, as seen in the photo above.

We used buttons — but any item can work, preferably ones that can be worn so others can see them,” explains Liz Bradshaw, extension associate at NoroCORE. “ The main data aspect of the game is to keep track of which button numbers give out which bags of buttons (for example, person 52 gave out buttons 102, 103, and 104) in a basic spreadsheet. That information gets imported to a free program called Cytoscape 3 to create the network.”

During the Food Safety Summit they ran two outbreaks that reached 374 people by the time the exhibit hall closed.

The first outbreak started at the evening reception when the exhibit hall opened, and its Patient Zero was Chip Manuel from Diversey, which ended up infecting 202 people in total. The second started the next morning with Kathleen O'Donnell from Wegmans, and infected 172 in total.

“It started with two people who gave out a few virus buttons and those recipients came back and got more buttons to give out, and so forth, until you get this large network,” Bradshaw says. “The neat thing about the exercise is the network looks different each time you run it, and it demonstrates how a single infected person can lead to a cascade of illness.”

The USDA-NIFA Food Virology Collaborative, NoroCORE (Norovirus Collaborative for Outreach, Research, and Education) is a food safety initiative with the ultimate goal to reduce the burden of food borne disease associated with viruses, particularly noroviruses.

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