Lawsuit Filed Over 2008 Norovirus Outbreak At New York Waterpark

A class action lawsuit has been filed over a 2008 norovirus outbreak at Six Flags Great Escape Lodge and Indoor Water Park. The action, which was filed in New York State, involved about 2,700 people.

The plaintiffs allege they were sickened in a 2008 norovirus outbreak at the Six Flags Great Escape Lodge & Indoor Waterpark in Queensbury. The lawsuit comes after another case, which is considered the first aquatics-related class action and which is ongoing, in which a 2005 outbreak of cryptosporidium took place at a New York spraypark, said Aquatics International.

The Six Flags Norovirus lawsuit alleges that facility operators did not put in place or monitor appropriate sanitary conditions and safety measures at the waterpark, such as training employees and ensuring sick food service workers were not negligently permitted to continue working, said Aquatics International. It has not yet been established if recreational water is the culprit in this matter.

Although Six Flags received hundreds of reports of stomach illness from its guests during the month of March 2008—illnesses were reported from March 3 – 28—Six Flags remained open, said Aquatics International. In fact, over 500 guests from 32 New York counties and eight other states and Canada, called in to report illnesses. Some 100 people reported illnesses on March 16 alone.

New York State Department of Health’s testing of people who reported sicknesses confirmed a norovirus.

Norovirus are a group of viruses that cause swelling in the linings of both 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 chorine 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.

Although norovirus can thrive and transmit in recreational water that is not properly maintained, for instance, with free chlorine, health officials cannot confirm that the waterpark is the culprit. “No violations of New York state Sanitary Code for Swimming Pools or Recreational Aquatic Spraygrounds were found,” said Peter Constantakes, a representative of the New York Stated Department of Health’s (NYSDOH) Public Affairs Group.

The CDC did report five norovirus-related recreational waterpark illness (RWI) outbreaks in its September 2011 Morbidity and Mortality Report, said Aquatics International.

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