Health Officials Investigate Omaha Hotel
POSTED: 8:28 am CDT October 10, 2005

OMAHA, Neb. — More than 50 people became ill after events at an Omaha hotel two weeks ago.

Health officials are investigating at the Doubletree Hotel at 16th and Dodge streets. Several Air Force officers got sick during a stay at the hotel, and more than 50 other people attending a separate ball also got sick.

Papillion-La Vista High School Principal Jim Glover hadn’t taken a sick day in 15 years, until two weeks ago. He said he started vomiting on the Monday after a fundraiser ball for the Midlands Community Foundation he attended

“I started feeling sick. I thought maybe it was the early signs of the flu,” Glover said. “I can’t ever remember a time I felt worse.”

Glover decided it probably wasn’t the flu when he learned that several people that had been at the fundraiser were also ill.

“That got me thinking, maybe it wasn’t the flu that I had. Maybe it was some type of airborne sickness at the Doubletree,” Glover said.

Foundation ball chairman Tonee Gay said that of the 370 people who attended the ball, 52 reported getting sick within days of the event. Glover said that among the people he spoke to, it didn’t seem to matter if people ate beef or chicken — the two items served. He said several got sick who ate one or the other.

The same weekend, an illness struck several Air Force officers who were staying at the Doubletree. The 311th Human Systems Wing in Texas released a statement that officials are investigating an incident of possible food-borne norovirus illnesses that occurred at an Omaha hotel during the General Officers Call.

Dr. Adi Pour, with the Douglas County Health Department, confirmed on Sunday that her office is investigating both outbreaks, and is trying to see if there are more cases.

Doubletree representatives did not return calls seeking comment.

U.S. Rep. Tom Osborne was at the Midlands Community Foundation Ball to support his mentoring program, Teammates. He was unable to be reached for comment on this story.

The norovirus is also known as the Norwalk virus, which has been in the news in recent years when cruise ship passengers got sick. It is transmitted from person to person by contact, or from one person to another by an contaminated surface.