Health authorities shut down all food vendors in a downtown Seattle, Wash., high-rise after an outbreak of the norovirus sickened about 200 people who attended a catered event inside the building Dec. 1.
According to the Seattle Times, 150 of 600 people who attended a “farewell party” at the Russell Investments Center for a corporate tenant relocating reported becoming sick with the symptoms of norovirus illness – a notoriously durable and highly contagious germ often dubbed as the “cruise ship virus” for its history of spreading quickly onboard the vacation-going vessels.
Another 50 attendees reported their illness directly to the Seattle & King County Public Health departments.
Two of the sickened people have been hospitalized, the Seattle Times reported, and another eight received emergency room care for their illness.
Norovirus causes inflammation of the intestines and stomach, and its flu-like symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, stomach pain and cramps, fever,headache, and body aches. Dehydration may result in some patients who go untreated.
Norovirus is the leading cause of foodborne illness in the U.S. The virus can easily thrive inside and outside the human body, and spreads from an infected person, consuming contaminated food and drinks, and touching contaminated surfaces.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the virus causes between 19 and 21 million illnesses every year. Of those sickened annually, 56,000-71,000 are hospitalized, and 570-800 die.
The Russell Investments Center building is home to a number of well-known corporate tenants including real estate data firm Zillow.
The farewell event was held in the tower’s cafeteria and was catered by Bon Appetit Management Co. of Palo Alto, Calif., which has catering services in 33 states. It is not clear how the norovirus contamination started, but Bon Appetit’s operation in the Russell Investments Center remains closed and its workers do not work in other locations, health officials said.