posted on Apr, 22 2003 @ 12:03 AM
Unexplained sickness affects dozens at Reno Hilton
4/21/2003 02:36 pm
Washoe County health officials spent Sunday trying to track down the source of an outbreak of flu-like symptoms among dozens of high-school-age girl
volleyball players staying at the Reno Hilton.
The county health department was notified early Sunday morning about the outbreak.
“The calls started coming in about 6 o’clock,” said Bob Sack, director of environmental health for the Washoe District Health Department. “About 80
people, mostly high school students but a couple of adults, complained of being ill.
“The symptoms don’t appear to be life-threatening,” Sack said.
About 25 people were treated at Washoe Medical Center, primarily for dehydration, said Nursing Supervisor Mary Ann Lambert. She said only one or two
A tournament for 120 teams from Western states sponsored by the Northern California Volleyball Association started Thursday and ended Sunday at the
Reno-Sparks Convention Center. Deanna Ashby, executive director of marketing for the Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority, said 3,000 players
“Early this morning, several dozen guests at the Reno Hilton affiliated with the tournament began reporting a gastro-intestinal illness,” hotel
spokesperson Mary Beth Olson said in a written statement. “The symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, chills and stomach cramps. The Reno Hilton has no
reports of illness from any guests who are not members of the volleyball group.
“About a third of those who became ill … were examined and treated.”
Sack said officials spent the day interviewing people who had reported symptoms and taking stool samples. He said the Hilton’s kitchen and water
systems would be inspected today as part of the investigation.
He said he could not speculate on the nature of the outbreak until test results are available, probably today or Tuesday.
“The teams were scattered pretty much throughout town, but so far the only connection seems to be that those involved were staying at the Hilton and
that they were volleyball players,” Sack said.
Shawn Clancy of Mitty High School in San Jose, Calif., was among the players afflicted and driven home Sunday.
“She was sick all day and all the other six people in the car with her were sick too, so I would imagine they’re making a lot of stops along the way
home,” said her mother, Joan Clancy.
“I don’t know how they can say it isn’t life-threatening if they don’t know what it is,” she said. “Obviously, I’m concerned.”
The volleyball teams started arriving Thursday and most were expected to be gone by Sunday night, Sack said. Most of those affected were high-school
age and junior high-school age, he said, although some coaches and players’ family members were involved.
“As soon as we can identify the organism, we’ll be able to find out whether it was food-borne or water-borne or whatever,” Sack said. “We’re not
ruling out food poisoning or a Norwalk-type virus.”
Tom Arnott, 52, of Honolulu, said he, his daughter and three of her teammates became ill Sunday. He spent most of the day at the hospital with a
“I started feeling a queasy stomach at 3 this morning. One of my daughter’s teammates then joined us and it went from bad to worse,” he said outside
the hospital emergency room in the evening.
“I still feel terrible. I just want to go back to the hotel room and sleep,” Arnott said.
The Norwalk virus infected about 1,300 Reno Hilton employees and customers between May 15, 1996, and June 28, 1996.
In May last year, a Washoe District Court jury awarded $25.2 million in punitive damages to plaintiffs in the class-action suit. The Reno Hilton has
Plaintiff lawyer John Echeverria said testimony showed about 20 percent of the hotel workforce contracted the disease in 1996 and about half of those
continued to work. Evidence showed the hotel did not offer sick pay for workers, and that new workers could get a demerit for calling in sick.
Sack said Hilton officials were increasing efforts to get employees to wash hands and stay home if ill.
“The Hilton is really jumping on it,” he said.