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Norovirus Suspected in Illnesses Following San Diego Awards Banquet

Reports following an awards banquet last week at Bali Hai Restaurant in San Diego, which sickened at least 60 people, indicate that the likely problem was norovirus.

A spokesman with the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health was quoted Tuesday in a local newspaper saying that the county was still waiting on laboratory confirmation, but that no illness reports had been received from anyone who ate at Bali Hai but did not attend the July 29 event.

Bali Hai Restaurant San DiegoThe restaurant was reportedly scrubbed down for norovirus late last week and increased the sanitizer level in its dishwasher, an issue which had recently been noted by county food safety inspectors.

“Norovirus can be found in the environment, and outbreaks can be caused by a number of reasons,” Michael Workman, director of the county’s communications office, told a San Diego media outlet. “Often we see them in places where a large number of people congregate. It can be spread easily person-to-person if even just one person comes to an event and is ill; they can spread it by hand shaking or contaminating food or other surfaces and other people can become ill.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), norovirus is the most common cause of foodborne illness in the country. It is typically transmitted by an infected person, by contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. Symptoms include stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.

The initial story posted Aug. 3 follows:

Dozens of people attending a banquet at Bali Hai Restaurant on Shelter Island in San Diego harbor last week were reportedly sickened, and health officials have been busy trying to figure out the source.

The event on July 29, sponsored by the San Diego chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, drew 170 people, and 55 of them became ill. A few went to the hospital and one was reportedly taken there Saturday by paramedics.

People who attended the banquet were being asked by officials with the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health to fill out a questionnaire about what they had eaten prior to becoming ill.

The restaurant serves Polynesian cuisine and is a popular wedding and banquet venue.

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