March 10, 2004

The number of Las Vegas visitors reporting infection of the Norwalk virus is now up to about 300 and most are from Hawaii. As a result, some people planning to visit the gambling destination have canceled their trips.

A spokesman for the California Hotel and Casino said about 300,000 people visit the hotel over a three- to four-month period. Since the outbreak of the Norwalk virus, less than 1 percent, or 3,000, people have canceled their reservations, the spokesman said.

Since early December, nearly 300 people reported getting sick with the Norwalk virus after visiting the California Hotel and Casino. It’s a favorite vacation spot of many Hawaii residents. The Norwalk virus is similar to the stomach flu and lasts one to two days. Infected residents returning home from Vegas, officials said, could spread it even further.

“(The) Norwalk virus is very contagious, so people who are ill can transmit it to others and that can happen if they contaminate food or water or even person-to-person spread, so theoretically, I would say yes, people can pass this infection on,” Dr. Paul Effler of the state Department of Health said.

The source of the contamination at the California Hotel could not be located. A spokesman said extra measures have been taken to disinfect the hotel.

Experts said the virus is extremely common, with an estimated 23 million cases every year in the United States.

One year ago, 300 people contracted the Norwalk virus aboard the luxury liner Sun Princess before it docked in Honolulu.

Effler said the Norwalk virus can live on surfaces for days. He suggests washing your hands regularly.

If you contract the infection, officials say you should keep your fluid intake up, don’t prepare food for others and continue to wash your hands regularly.