News for the Hospitality Executive
|By Gerry Doyle, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Tribune
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
February 8, 2006 - More than 100 guests, workers and attendees of a fundraising event at the Drake Hotel became ill over the weekend, sickened by what health officials said was an ingested virus.
The outbreak was caused by a norovirus, a bug that causes nasty stomach symptoms, including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, said Tim Hadac, a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Public Health.
Nobody reported serious complications, Hadac said.
"Several people did treat symptoms at hospitals," he said, but none was hospitalized. "We have worked with the hotel to essentially order a top-to-bottom scrubbing of not only the kitchens, but the entire hotel."
The agency is hunting for the source of the virus, Hadac said.
Officials at the Drake Hotel, 140 E. Walton Pl., confirmed in a statement that "a number of guests and employees" became ill, starting on Friday. The hotel is working with the city to find the cause, the statement said.
Drake general manager Gregor Andreewitch said the hotel was continuing to operate normally, and all of its kitchens and restaurants remained open. He said he was not aware of anyone's needing hospitalization but added "we have asked whoever has become ill to see a medical doctor."
Sue Wilson, co-founder of the Children's Medical Research Foundation, said her organization was holding an annual fundraiser at the hotel on Friday night. The gathering had a full menu of hors d'oeuvres and entrees, she said.
On Saturday afternoon, calls complaining of sickness began to trickle in. By Sunday, it was a flood.
"My first assumption of course was, oh my goodness, great, we have the flu," said Wilson, whose foundation gathers funding and support for research into Sanfilippo syndrome and other children's diseases. "But when I started getting calls from guests (of the hotel), my concern level went up and I called the Drake."
Wilson's husband, daughter and sister all got sick, she said, and her husband remains bed-ridden. As of Tuesday afternoon, she had gotten calls from about 120 of the 191 people who attended the fundraiser, she said.
Several reported going to hospitals for dehydration, Wilson said.
"It's a vicious one, whatever it is," she said. "I'm very concerned about our guests."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, noroviruses usually cause symptoms 12 to 48 hours after exposure. Most people recover within a few days, and dehydration often is the worst side-effect.
The virus must be ingested, and most often it is transmitted through contaminated food or drink, according to the CDC.
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