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December 20, 2014

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Health District: Norovirus to blame for 100 falling ill at Rio

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Christopher DeVargas

An exterior view of the Rio Hotel and Casino, June 6, 2013.

Southern Nevada Health District officials determined that the highly contagious Norovirus caused about 100 people staying at the Rio for a youth football tournament to become sick over the weekend.

Two people who were sick tested positive for the Norovirus, commonly referred to as the stomach flu, which causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, health officials said. The virus is highly contagious and can spread from person to person if they do not wash their hands.

News of the outbreak came early Friday when the Clark County Fire Department reported 13 children and five adults were transported to area hospitals via casino shuttles. The children were between the ages of 7 and 9 and from a Santa Monica, Calif., football team.

About 100 people attending the tournament for the National Youth Football Championship became sick, said Justin Gates, competition director for event-organizer Sports Network International. The event, which was attended by about 7,000 people, started on Wednesday and ended on Saturday and was headquartered at the Rio.

Attendees who were staying at other casinos also became sick, Gates said. Those transported to area hospitals were released over the weekend.

Health officials said the virus could have originated with someone sick who arrived for the tournament. It can take a person up to 12 hours before showing Norovirus symptoms, so it is difficult to determine the source of illness, officials said. Health officials are investigating to determine the source.

Caesars Entertainment, which operates the Rio, has set up hand-sanitizer stations throughout the casino and hotel to prevent the spread of the disease, Caesars spokesman Gary Thompson said. Any visitors or employees who feel sick are encouraged to contact health officials.

The best way to prevent the spread of Norovirus is to wash hands frequently and for those who are ill to stay home until they feel better, health officials said.

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