Norovirus Likely Cause of Growing Hilton Westchester Outbreak

novo-virus-deathThe number of those sickened with a gastrointestinal illness at New York’s Hilton Westchester last week has risen into the hundreds.

The Westchester County Department of Health said that early indications point to norovirus, according to LoHud.com. The cause of the illness remains under investigation. While an exact number of people sickened remains unknown, LoHud.com speculated that the numbers could be high given that attendees at Hilton Westchester events numbered in the hundreds last weekend.

People in attendance at an April 20 black-tie dinner at the hotel’s Pelham Picture House, as well as guests at a next-day event there, have reported falling ill. “I was as sick as a dog for five days,” Beryl Savage of White Plains told LoHud.com. “I was so weak, I couldn’t even stand up.” Savage and her two daughters were guests at the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Westchester Alumnae scholarship brunch. The three fell ill within one day and reported severe stomach problems. Savage told LoHud.com that the other 10 people at her table at the brunch event also fell ill.

Event organizers said that about 200 of those at the brunch have been sickened; however, the number of those who attended the Pelham Picture House event who fell ill the prior night remains unknown, said LoHud.com. Peter DeLucia, assistant commissioner of the agency’s Bureau of Public Health Protection, said confirmation of what illness is involved is expected tomorrow. DeLucia pointed out that how the illness spread and what, if any, food was involved, remains unknown.

Janis Morris and her husband, John, of Peekskill, New York, also attended the brunch and both were sickened. Her sister and a number of friends who went to the brunch reported illnesses, as well. Morris said she ate a variety of foods, including salads, at the event, but does not know what made her sick, said LoHud.com. She also told LoHud.com that the Department of Health contacted her yesterday and that she answered an eight-page questionnaire concerning what she ate and did at the event. “I hope they figure out what caused this,” she said. “No one should have to go through what I just went through.”

At the Hilton’s regular inspection on December 12, a dangerous violation involving a refrigerator in an employee cafeteria was cited and immediately corrected, according to the records. A follow-up January 16 inspection revealed seven other violations, not deemed as serious, which had been corrected. The kitchen remains open and special precautions—eliminating self-service buffets and public touch screens and increasing sanitizer use—have been taken, said LoHud.com.

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 just 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 ineffective. People are generally considered to be contagious from when they feel ill to about three days after their symptoms subside; however, the virus may 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 other than to remain hydrated..

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