Local News

Students sickened by norovirus at Raleigh conference

Posted February 15, 2010 11:52 a.m. EST
Updated February 21, 2010 8:32 p.m. EST

— 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.

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.