Just hours after setting up a tent at a multi-day music event, Georgina Grey was struck down with vomiting so severe she passed out.
The 22-year-old Auckland-based student had hoped to see in the new year with friends, and the thousands of others who were drawn to the Rhythm and Vines festival.
Instead she left on New Year’s Eve morning when someone else in her group of revellers fell ill with diarrhoea.
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Fifteen other festival-goers were admitted to Gisborne Hospital on January 1 with severe vomiting and diarrhoea, which health authorities feared could have been from norovirus. They have since been discharged.
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St John Ambulance paramedics treated people in a large tent set up on site, but the number of people presenting with norovirus-like symptoms meant they needed to be isolated to avoid contamination, Tairāwhiti District Health Board Medical Officer of Health Bruce Duncan said at the time.
While norovirus hasn’t yet been confirmed, the DHB’s priority was avoiding an outbreak.
“With thousands of people in close proximity, it was a priority to do all we can to prevent a mass outbreak. At this stage, this appears to have been successful,” Duncan said.
On Tuesday the DHB couldn’t confirm whether the severe stomach bug was caused by norovirus.
Rhythm and Vines head of department camping Lisa Taylor said the stomach bug could have been contracted anywhere but the festival’s campgrounds.
“It’s got nothing to do with the campsites or what they’re doing within them. It’s around what [people were] eating and what [they were] drinking, it could have been anything.
“It’s pretty hard to blame the campsites for 15 people getting sick out of about 13,000. Considering it can happen anywhere, they could’ve contracted it from anywhere.”
She also finds it “hard to believe” that the conditions of campsites weren’t up to standard.
“My cleaners [were] pretty stringent about making sure they put hand sanitisers in on a regular basis.
“We have cleaners there all the time, who go around the portaloos all day 24/7 pretty much.”
However, for Grey, it would be the last time she attends Rhythm and Vines, describing the conditions as “disgusting”.
“It was pretty gross, there is nowhere to wash your hands in the portaloos, there was only hand sanitiser.”
After setting up their tents on December 28, Grey and her friends attended a bar. Leaving before 10pm, she woke up two hours later feeling severely sick.
“I was just vomiting so much that I couldn’t sleep, I was hot and cold. I vomited everything out of my system, but kept dry retching.
“It was so bad that I like passed out from vomiting and woke up outside my tent not knowing what had happened. That happened three times that same night.”
She thought it might have been caused by a beef sausage she had eaten earlier in the night. But when she wasn’t improving, and a friend was struck down with diarrhoea, they decided to leave.
“We had been ready to go all year, invited friends that hadn’t been before, then I get there and it was s*** show really.
“With the rain and being sick and everything else, it wasn’t great.”