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Special Olympics illnesses caused by stomach flu virus

7/8/2006

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.