100 Partygoers Sickened Following Hilton Event in Westchester

About 100 people have fallen ill with what appears to be a norovirus after attending a fundraiser at the Pelham Picture House at the Hilton Westchester in Rye Brook, New York. One person has been hospitalized.

The event took place last weekend and now scores of those in attendance are reporting an intestinal illness that causes diarrhea and vomiting, said health officials, according to LoHud.com. Guests began reporting illnesses on Monday, said the Larchmont Mamaroneck Patch.

According to a county Health Department press release, it suspects this outbreak was caused by norovirus, “a stomach bug whose symptoms are vomiting and diarrhea. We are reaching out to interview all those who may be affected to help determine the source of the illness and to identify any new cases. We don’t know how many are affected yet.” The Health Department suggests thorough hand washing after every lavatory visit, between contact with other people, and before and after preparing food to prevent illness with norovirus, according to the Larchmont Mamaroneck Patch.

It is not yet clear if all of those who have fallen ill attended the Pelham Picture House dinner function last Saturday or if some of those who were sickened were attending other functions at the Westchester Hilton, said LoHud.com. The number of illness reports is expected to rise while the investigation, conducted by the county Department of Health, is ongoing.

In attendance at the Pelham Picture House event were Isabella Rossellini, the actress, film director, Benh Zeitlin; and State Senator, Jeffrey Klein (Democrat-Bronx), who said he was not sickened, wrote LoHud.com. Senator Klein, who authored a 2008 report entitled, “Restaurants that are Enough to Make You Sick: An Analysis of Unsanitary Conditions at New York City and Westchester County Restaurants,” said that this outbreak “shows the need for letter grades for food establishments in the county similar to those in New York City,” LoHud.com reported.

The health department, which has sent inspectors to the hotel said, “We are coordinating our response with both the Hilton and the organizers of these events,” LoHud.com said. A spokesman for the Hilton said that the hotel “is making every effort to ensure that all practices and standards are in line with safety and sanitation guidelines.”

Norovirus are a group of viruses that cause swelling in the lining of the stomach and intestines, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A highly contagious, severe gastrointestinal illness commonly referred to as the so-called “stomach flu,” norovirus spreads quickly because it transmits easily through the vomit and feces of people sick with the illness. Contact with only a few particles can make a person ill.

Norovirus, which can survive for weeks on surfaces at room temperature, can be difficult to eliminate, and can only be killed with chlorine bleach. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers and other preparations are not helpful. People are generally considered to be contagious from when they feel ill to about three days after their symptoms subside; however, the virus can still be active in their vomit or stool for two weeks or more.

If sickened with norovirus, the Health Department strongly urges people stay home, limit contact with others, avoid handling food for others, drink plenty of liquids, and contact a physician. There is no treatment or cure for norovirus.

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