Outbreak at Nev. youth event hits 2 teams hardest

Two teams from California accounted for most of the stomach illnesses this weekend during an outbreak that sickened up to 100 people at a youth football tournament in Las Vegas, organizers said Sunday. But local health officials say it will take time to determine how many were affected.

Some 90 to 100 players, coaches and parents developed flu-like symptoms of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea during the four-day National Youth Football Championships that ended Saturday, tournament spokesman Justin Gates said.

Of those, a Santa Monica, Calif., team accounted for about 50 cases and a Bakersfield, Calif., team accounted for some 25 cases, he said.

“For them to have many more cases, it’s logical they were more closely related to how it started,” Gates told The Associated Press. “What most likely happened is it started possibly on those teams and incubated on them before spreading to other people.”

Southern Nevada Health District spokesman Jorge Viote said his agency has encouraged organizers and attendees to fill out survey forms asking about symptoms and is awaiting responses.

“I don’t know where he (Gates) gets those numbers,” he said Sunday. “It could take time to get a reliable figure. When we get a figure, we’re not going to know the exact number because we don’t expect 100 percent of the people to respond to the survey.'”

Health officials said the symptoms are consistent with norovirus, a mostly food- or waterborne illness that can also be spread by an infected person. They’re investigating the cause of the outbreak.

Pinpointing the source of the outbreak will be difficult because the sick stayed at different hotels and ate at different restaurants, Gates said.

Nine of 100 teams from across the country were affected, he said, and about 28 players and adults were taken to the hospital. They were released after treatment. Only one game had to be forfeited because of sick players.

Gates said it was the worst such outbreak in the 40 years that his Florida-based company, Sports Network International, has been holding the tournament, but it only affected a little more than 1 percent of 7,000 attendees.

“It’s much bigger than anything else we’ve experienced as far as outbreaks,” he said. “It was bad, but it could have been worse. We were very fortunate.”

Precautions taken after the outbreak worsened on Friday helped contain its spread, he added. Among other things, organizers prohibited closing handshakes between opposing players after games and urged players and adults to wash hands and not to share food.

Local health officials are interviewing the sick and taking samples from them as part of the investigation to pinpoint the cause of the outbreak.

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