Hundreds of people who dined at a dinner theater in suburban Kansas City, Mo., in recent days have reported becoming sick in what early signs indicate is a massive outbreak of norovirus.
Nearly 400 people who ate at the New Theatre Restaurant in Overland Park, Kan., since Jan. 15 have reported becoming ill with stomach cramps and pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and other symptoms indicative of norovirus.
Laboratory tests confirmed that four of the theater goers who became ill were infected with norovirus, a notoriously contagious virus commonly referred to in the U.S. as the “stomach bug” or “puking virus.”
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) is investigating the outbreak with the Kansas Department of Agriculture and the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment. KDHE is currently reaching out to anyone who attended performances at the dinner theater since Jan. 15 to fill out an online survey.
The agency said it wants to hear from all attendees whether or not they became sick after their theater visit. KDHE said that the theater is cooperating fully with the ongoing investigation. As of Jan. 28, more than 390 people have reported becoming sick, the agency said.
Norovirus spreads fecally and orally from person to person (having contact with someone who is infected with norovirus), through contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. The best defense against it is to wash hands thoroughly and avoid touching the face with hands. Norovirus isn’t spread through the air, so it is not transmittable by coughing, sneezing, or talking.
Norovirus is commonly the cause of outbreaks on cruise ships, where it spreads quickly and easily among hundreds of passengers living in close quarters for days or weeks. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 19 to 21 million people become sickened by Norovirus every year, with most infections occurring in the winter months.