Vegas virus cases
quadruple to 1,174

Reports of the flulike symptom
surge with news of the
outbreak among hotel guests

The number of people complaining of a stomach flu-like virus during a visit to Las Vegas has more than quadrupled since the outbreak drew media attention.

Clark County, Nev., health officials said 1,174 people, many of whom were from Hawaii, reported suffering from the Norwalk virus after visiting Las Vegas between Dec. 3 and last Friday.

Health officials reported last week that 284 people had the virus between Dec. 3 and March 1.

David Tonelli, spokesman for the Clark County Health District, attributed the surge to recent media coverage on the number of Hawaii residents who were infected by the virus during visits to the California Hotel & Casino.

"Increased media coverage of the outbreak, particularly in Hawaii, prompted hotel and casino customers to report illnesses that had been previously unreported during December, January and February," Tonelli said.

Where to call if you think you got it

Hawaii residents who believe they were infected by the Norwalk virus during a Las Vegas visit since Dec. 3 can call the Clark County Health District's epidemiology office at 702-383-1378. To help track the outbreak, health officials will e-mail a 16-question survey to those who report having the virus.

Officials recently asked Hawaii residents who were infected by the virus during a Las Vegas visit since Dec. 3 to call the Clark County Health District's epidemiology office.

"Though the cumulative numbers have risen, a slight decline in the number of complaints of new illness occurring March 5 through March 12 was observed," Tonelli said.

Seventy-four people reported that they had the stomach flu-like virus during that week. The figure for the previous week was not available.

Symptoms of the Norwalk virus -- one of a variety of so-called noroviruses -- include vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps that could last up to three days.

"The decline in new cases is encouraging," said Tonelli. "However, it is not uncommon in norovirus outbreaks for a decline to be followed by a resurgence."

Health officials will deem the outbreak contained when a "sustained decline" has been observed over a month, said Tonelli. "The virus can live on surfaces for up to four weeks."

"We're looking for a sustained drop," he added. "We're keeping our fingers crossed."

Clark County health officials are investigating the origin of the virus but say it may be impossible to track.

"It's difficult to tell where or how it started. It's something that we're looking into, but it's something we may never know," said Tonelli.

Meanwhile, workers are continuing intensified cleaning efforts at all three hotels and casinos owned by Boyd Gaming Corp. in downtown Las Vegas.

Hospital-grade disinfectants are being used at the California, Fremont Hotel & Casino and the Main Street Station Hotel & Casino. Plastic cups are also being used for cocktails instead of glassware.

"We're providing a safe environment for our guests," said Boyd spokesman Rob Stillwell. "We have taken aggressive steps to address this swiftly and thoroughly."

Stillwell continues to recommend hotel and casino patrons regularly wash their hands. "Hand-washing is the main deterrent," he said.

He said hotel officials have not verified whether the additional people who recently contacted health officials were guests at their hotels.

"These are people, one way or another, who made their way through our property at that time," said Stillwell. "The hotel has not been the source of the illness."


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