Vegas wants to track
visitors with virus

Clark County, Nev., health officials are asking Hawaii residents to fill out questionnaires to help them keep track of the number of people who fell ill while staying in Las Vegas over the last few months.

Between Dec. 3 and last Monday, 284 people reported symptoms matching those of the Norwalk virus, which are similar to those of stomach flu.

Nevada health officials said most of those infected with the virus were Hawaii residents either staying at the California Hotel and Casino or visiting the property. The hotel is owned by Boyd Gaming Corp.

"Those who didn't stay at the California at some point during their trip paid a visit there," said Clark County Health District spokesman Dave Tonelli. "So all the infected have the California in common, and that's really the key."

Tonelli said there were 37 cases in December, 80 cases in January, 118 in February and 49 cases for the first eight days of this month. He said that to help keep track of the number of those infected, Clark County health officials are e-mailing a 16-question survey to those who report having the 24-hour virus since Dec. 3.

Hawaii residents who visited Las Vegas since Dec. 3 and want the questionnaire should call the epidemiology office of the Clark County Health District at 702-383-1378.

But some Vegas travelers said they were infected as early as November.

"My son, he's 9 and he had it really bad," said Gay Matsuzawa-Ah Loy, who was staying at the California hotel with her family between Oct. 31 and Nov. 4. "It was like projectile vomiting."

Matsuzawa-Ah Loy said of the seven people in her party, five of them, herself included, came down with "the bug." Other visitors said they were not even staying in the downtown area near the California but that they also got sick.

"We were there last month and stayed at the Stardust but had gone and ate at the California," said Molokai resident Kathleen Tachibana. "The next day, I was sick to my stomach. ... I thought it was food poisoning."

"My sister-in-law just left for Vegas. ... I told her to take Handiwipes and to wash her hands all the time."

Boyd spokesman Rob Stillwell said the hotel has stepped up its cleaning efforts. Workers clean restrooms every hour, and hospital-grade disinfectants are being used at all three of Boyd's downtown properties, the California, Main Street and the Fremont. However, Stillwell disputed media reports saying there had been 3,000 room cancellations at the California since the outbreak of the virus.

"I did not say that, and they misinterpreted the information I gave them," said Stillwell yesterday. "We have not reported any numbers except to say the number of cancellations are minimal."


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