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Gastrointestinal virus likely caused illness

Dare County Health Officials report that a gastrointestinal virus was likely the cause of sickness reported by individuals who attended a private event in Manteo on Friday, May 3.

Approximately 250 people were in attendance and it is estimated that as many as 60 individuals became sick.

Of those having symptoms, only three people reported seeking medical attention.

The Outer Banks Hospital reported the illnesses May 4. The Dare Health Department finished its investigation May 6.

The investigation is inconclusive, as only two samples were taken for testing and the results were negative for any specific foodborne bacteria and the Norovirus, reported the Dare Health Department in a media release.

Dare County Department of Health & Human Services’ Environmental Health Unit found the caterer to be in compliance with NC Food Code regulations with respect to food handling, preparation, cooking temperatures, transporting and hot/cold holding temperatures. All food supplied by the caterer was from an approved source. All catering staff members were in compliance with respect to service of food, utensil usage, clothing and gloves.

“There is nothing that we can link to food,” said Health & Human Services director Dr. Sheila Davies in a telephone interview.

“Based on the facts and previous investigations of this nature, the illness was likely caused by a gastrointestinal virus, such as Norovirus,” said Davies in the printed release. “In this circumstance, it is possible that an asymptomatic, but still infectious individual attended the event and led to the outbreak due to the large number of people in close contact.”

The most common symptoms of gastrointestinal viruses, such as Norovirus, are diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach pain. Considering the incubation period and length of illness, public health officials believe that the illness is no longer an ongoing public health concern.

According to the CDC, a person usually develops symptoms 12 to 48 hours after being exposed to Norovirus. Most people with norovirus illness get better within one to three days. The event occurred on Friday, May 3 and no additional cases have been reported as of May 15, the date of the media release.

Gastrointestinal viruses, such as Norovirus, are highly contagious and can spread through casual contact such as handshakes, touching contaminated door knobs or touching items at a self-serve beverage station.

Proper hand washing is critical due to the contagious nature of the virus. If an infected individual did not properly wash their hands and then made contact described above, everyone who made subsequent contact could potentially become infected.

More information on gastrointestinal viruses, such as Norovirus, can be found on the CDC website at cdc.gov/norovirus/index.

For more information, contact the Dare County Department of Health & Human Services communications specialist Kelly Nettnin at 252-475-5036 or kellyn@darenc.com.

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