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Students sickened by norovirus at Raleigh conference

Posted February 15, 2010
Updated February 21, 2010

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— Tests show the students sickened while attending a leadership conference in Raleigh over the weekend suffered from norovirus, Wake County officials said Monday.

About 150 of the 1,000 students from across the state who gathered at the downtown Raleigh Sheraton for a YMCA Youth & Government meeting reported nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Five were taken to area hospitals.

Cuase identified, source unclear for students' illness Cause identified, source unclear for students' illness

Noroviruses cause symptoms of intestinal distress. It spreads quickly in confined spaces and is common in hospitals and cruise ships. Younger people experience more pronounced illnesses from the infection. Most people recover completely within 24 to 48 hours.

No other guests of the hotel reported any symptoms.

Conference attendees ate at a banquet at the Raleigh Convention Center Friday night and started reporting symptoms by Saturday morning. Symptoms from norovirus generally take 24 to 48 hours to appear.

Roger Krupa, director of the convention center, said Wake health officials told him the virus could have incubated in the students' bodies before they ate at the banquet.

Andre Pierce, Wake County's environmental health and safety director, said steps were taken Saturday to completely sanitize the kitchens of the convention center, the Sheraton and a nearby pizzeria.

The convention center was cleared to continue serving meals, and Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker hosted the State of the City luncheon there Monday.

"I'm the director. I'd like to stay the director. My mayor's in there having lunch. He better be healthy when he walks out of here and he'd better be healthy 24 hours from now," Krupa said.

Wake County Department of Health investigators are still gathering data and it could be days or weeks before investigators can pinpoint with certainty where the virus originated, Wake County Public Affairs Manager Sarah Williamson-Baker said.


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  • annaeclaire Feb 16, 2010

    I was one of the teenagers at the YAG convention. I was sick. We ate dinner at about 7pm on Friday night and about 500 teens had symptoms the next morning starting around 3-5am. This is about 8 hours later that 500 of us contracted the illness. Almost all of us had no more symptoms 12 hours later. There were four girls in my room and three of us were sick. We shared a room, beds, and a toilet for four days and the fourth girl never had any symptoms. She shared a bed with a girl who was violently ill the entire night and she used the toilet after us. There were much more that 150 people reporting symptoms. The number is over half. There is no way 500 teens got sick at the exact same time in the night and were symptom free 12 hours later from a virus brought in. It is obvious that we got sick from our food.

  • Reader Feb 16, 2010

    The Norovirus is rampant in Wake County right now. The Wake Co Health Department issued a warning about a local outbreak last Friday. Didn't do me any good - my husband had already brought it home from NC State, and we passed it around my family in spite of designating one bathroom a "no sick" zone and sanitizing every door knob and light switch. The only person who didn't get it was my teenage son. He made his own food, stayed away except to sleep, and even put a paper towel over the mouse when he needed to use the family computer for school. It's highly contagious!

  • beckerunc Feb 16, 2010

    Let's see. No one is sick. They eat mass prepared food. They get sick. Sickness does not spread to those sharing hotel room and bathroom with the sick. I say COVER UP !!!!

  • dvdcts Feb 15, 2010

    Is everyone here really that naive!
    This is a case of food poisoning that is being covered up by saying it's a virus.
    Just like on cruise ships they always have norovirus it is never called what it is FOOD POISONING!
    I've had it several times. It's horrible!

  • bojoe Feb 15, 2010

    I got it last year before anyone was talking about it. It was the worst sickness I have ever had. I thought I was going to die. Catching it again is my worst fear, way-beyond H1N1.

  • bojoe Feb 15, 2010

    Can someone please tell WHY an alchohol-based cleanser will not kill the narvovirus?

  • jjackson3 Feb 15, 2010

    I got it and I just work downtown. I got nowhere near the convention center nor did I eat food from there.

  • mtadish Feb 15, 2010

    Wiki says it may be transmitted airborne via aerosol from throwing up. Immunity doesn't last long so, I guess that would throw a monkey wrench into any vaccine --

  • SaltlifeLady Feb 15, 2010

    This is a really bad virus that is going round and affecting bunches of people. To the student who said they attended the conference and wondered why they sanitized Saturday and not Friday, I am sure they did their routine sanitizing before food was prepared there Friday. I think what the convention center manager meant was that everything was recleaned on Saturday after the outbreak. I would like to know how many students were in attendace at this conference. I work in an urgent care and all we have been doing for weeks is IVs on people with this virus. It is not hard to fathom that an outbreak would occur quick and nasty among a group of teen- they are in each other's faces constantly and are not known for being the best about hygeine. Teenagers constantly share food,drinks, cell phones, etc and are terrible about washing their hands! Everyone needs to be washing hands with soap & water to protect against this virus. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are not effective against Norovirus.

  • lemonchar Feb 15, 2010

    Does anybody know if there's a vaccine in the works for this? If it causes MORE suffering than influenza and can also kill young kids and the elderly, why don't we have a vaccine in development??

    That said, I hope people realize that hand sanitizer does nothing but dry out your hands. Soap and water is the only thing that works!