Special Olympics illnesses caused by stomach flu virus

Updated: July 8, 2006, 9:05 PM ET
Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Samples from people who became ill during the Special Olympics USA National Games this week have tested positive for a virus that causes stomach flu, the Iowa Department of Public Health said Saturday. Some people were quarantined.

At least 30 people were treated Friday for vomiting, nausea and diarrhea. The health agency said norovirus is a common cause of viral gastroenteritis, also known as stomach flu, and outbreaks are normally associated with food and water.

The Special Olympics held its closing ceremonies Friday night, and officials were concerned that people heading home this weekend would carry the sickness with them. More than 30,000 people from across the country attended the six-day event at Ames in central Iowa.

At least 10 people had been hospitalized, and others are being held in a recreation center at Iowa State University as a precaution, said Mary Mincer Hansen, director for the Iowa Department of Public Health.

"We don't want the hospitals to be overwhelmed," she said.

A sign outside the recreation center on Friday said the building was closed for "medical quarantine." Health officials would not comment on how long the quarantine would last or how many people were being held in the building.

Hansen said health departments in other states had been advised about the infection. "Norovirus can be spread from person to person, especially among family members," she said.

Special Olympics officials would not comment.

Norovirus is family of common viruses that have sickened many cruise ship passengers and were blamed for sickening about 100 people on Colorado River tour boat trips through the Grand Canyon last summer.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press