80 fall ill in norovirus outbreak at Richmond hotel

A Sheraton Hotel in Richmond, B.C., and two associated restaurants have been shut down after 80 people became sick with norovirus over the weekend.

According to Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), about 40 staff members and 40 guests have been affected by the illness. Cavu Kitchen Bar at the Hilton Vancouver Airport Hotel has also been closed in connection with the outbreak.

Currently, no one is allowed to stay at the Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel on Westminster Highway until the facility has been thoroughly cleaned.

“It’s quite significant to shut down an entire hotel and especially at that size,” said Claudia Kurzac, VCH’s manager for environmental health.

“Given the numbers of people potentially exposed and that were ill, I think that was probably the best course of action to take.”

A large conference of 500 people that began last Friday was being held at the Sheraton Hotel, according to Kurzac. VCH received a call during its off hours the next day about a problem at the hotel. 

An inspector was sent out that afternoon.

Until the facility has been thoroughly cleaned, the hotel is now closed, along with two restaurants inside, a Starbucks and Harold’s Bistro, 

All rooms, public areas and food and beverage facilities must be sanitized before the hotel is safe to reopen.

“Norovirus is a very hardy virus that can survive on surfaces … so you need a higher level of disinfectant,” said Kurzac.

In an email, Steve Veinot, the hotel manager, said that they are not able to trace the source of the outbreak.

2nd hotel affected

The Sheraton Hotel was not the only hotel that was affected.

On Saturday, a chef at the Cavu Kitchen Bar in the Hilton Vancouver Airport Hotel started to notice symptoms of norovirus, according to Kurzac. The hotel immediately closed down its food and beverage facilities, but the hotel remains open to guests.

The Sheraton and Hilton airport hotels in Richmond were both affected by the outbreak. (Martin Diotte/CBC)

The hotels are operated by the same company — Larco Hospitality — and staff members occasionally move between hotels to help out when a hotel is hosting a large function.

“It’s unfortunate that so many people are ill, but I’m very impressed with the response from both hotels,” Kurzac said.

What is norovirus?

Norovirus is an acute gastroenteritis virus, commonly known as the “stomach flu.” It has a sudden onset that can cause violent symptoms.

Symptoms that commonly occur are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps and can last from 12 to 60 hours.

It is recommended that people who are infected drink small amounts of liquids for rehydration, stick to a normal diet and remain home for two days after the symptoms have stopped.

The virus often spreads when a person comes in contact with countertops and surfaces that have not been properly cleaned.

The virus can also spread by inhaling air particles when in close proximity to someone who vomits.

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