More than 80 people fall ill after norovirus outbreak at Vancouver airport hotel

The Sheraton hotel in Richmond has been closed to the public after dozens of people became sick with norovirus. Neetu Garcha has that story.

Two Vancouver airport hotels have been forced to close their food and beverage areas after a norovirus outbreak caused dozens to fall ill over the weekend.

Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) said Wednesday that about 40 staff members and 40 guests from the Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel in Richmond were affected by the illness, which was first reported Saturday.

A food handler from the nearby Hilton Vancouver Airport Hotel, who was assisting at the Sheraton on Friday, also fell ill, VCH said, while two bartending staff members reported the illness as well.

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The Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel was forced to completely shut down Saturday and remained closed as of Wednesday.

No one is allowed to stay at the hotel on Westminster Highway until the facility is fully cleaned. That includes the kitchen as well as the Starbucks and Harold’s Bistro inside.

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The hotel’s rooms and public areas also have to be cleaned.

The kitchen and restaurant at the Hilton are also closed for cleaning, but the hotel itself is still open and taking guests.

A large conference was taking place over the weekend at the Sheraton, whose guests were the ones affected by the outbreak, VCH said.

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VCH said cleaning at both hotels is continuing, and the B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s Environmental Health Services is following up on Wednesday.

The Sheraton’s general manager Steve Veinot said the hotel has been unable to determine the source of the outbreak.

“We have a large team rapidly working through the hotel now and hope to be completely reopened in a couple of days,” he said in an email.

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“We will only reopen when we are confident it is safe to do so and in conjunction with Vancouver Coastal Health.”

Sanjeet Sadana, general manager of the Hilton hotel, said in an email no guests have fallen ill at his hotel and hopes to reopen the hotel’s food and beverage services “soon.”

“We are conducting intensive cleaning and sanitization procedures throughout our food and beverage facilities in coordination with Vancouver Coastal Health,” he said in an email.

Both managers said they take health and cleanliness at their hotels seriously and have strict cleaning standards inside their food and beverage areas.

What is norovirus?

Norovirus is an infection of the digestive tract that can cause upset stomach, vomiting or diarrhea within one to two days of exposure. Other symptoms include nausea, cramping, chills and fever.

Health officials say the symptoms begin suddenly and can last up to three days. While patients usually recover after that time, complications can arise from losing too much fluid.

No medication is available to treat norovirus.

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The virus can be spread through air particles or if an infected person does not wash their hands before handling food, water or ice.

It can also last for a long time on surfaces like countertops or sinks if they aren’t properly cleaned.

B.C. has seen norovirus outbreaks in the past, which are usually linked to raw oysters.

VCH said the size of the outbreak isn’t unheard of, but the size of the conference was a factor.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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