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Illness outbreak at the Westgate hits guests, workers

Updated July 3, 2018 - 5:10 pm

An unknown number of Westgate employees and guests have fallen ill since late last week in what the Southern Nevada Health District said could be a norovirus — or stomach flu — outbreak.

Westgate Resorts Chief Operating Officer Mark Waltrip confirmed at least 15 employees and four guests have reported illness. After the Review-Journal published a story Tuesday, readers called to say that they, too, had been sickened after a weekend stay at Westgate.

Paul Little, who ran media relations for the Amazing Comic Con Convention at the Las Vegas Convention Center last weekend, said at least 33 staff, vendors and artists staying at Westgate during the convention fell ill.

He said two were confirmed as suffering from norovirus after visiting hospitals outside of Las Vegas. Little provided a receipt of his Westgate reservation, but the Review-Journal could not further confirm his account.

Portland comic artists Brian Linss and Meg Kirkpatrick, who also attended the convention to sell artwork, said their group of five also came down with stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea.

“I’ve never experienced something like that before,” Linss said Tuesday. “Not only were we out the hospital bills, but of course, the loss of income.”

Norovirus, extremely contagious and passed through contaminated food, water or surfaces, causes symptoms similar to what Linss and Kirkpatrick reported.

Waltrip, the Westgate COO, said reports of illnesses started trickling in late last week and came as recently as Monday morning from two employees who called in sick, though both were back to work Tuesday, he said.

“There’s really no commonality, like eating at the same place or drinking the same water,” Waltrip said, calling the breakout “influenza-like.”

Still, the Southern Nevada Health District opened an investigation Monday to determine the illness and its source, and any remediation efforts that may be necessary, a spokeswoman said Tuesday. She later said in an email that the symptoms were consistent with norovirus, or the stomach flu, which can be spread on the hands of those infected, but added that had not been confirmed.

Complaints from Westgate to the health district confirmed gastrointestinal symptoms, she said, but the health district hadn’t yet confirmed the number of reported cases or symptoms.

The district’s environmental health division is surveying the hotel’s kitchens and cleaning protocol. She advised guests and employees to engage in thorough handwashing to avoid the spread of germs.

Westgate is taking additional precautions, including replacing glassware at its bars with plastic and setting up hand sanitizer stations throughout the resort, Waltrip said.

Contact Jessie Bekker at jbekker@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4563. Follow @jessiebekks on Twitter.

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