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No handshakes after football games after norovirus outbreak in Vegas

LAS VEGAS >> An outbreak that sent about 28 people to the emergency room during a youth football tournament in Las Vegas was caused by norovirus, health officials said Monday.

Tournament spokesman Justin Gates said some 90 to 100 players, coaches and parents came down with symptoms including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea during the four-day National Youth Football Championships that ended Saturday. The stomach bug prompted tournament organizers to prohibit end-of-the-game handshakes between opposing players out of fear that participants might infect each other.

After two stool samples tested positive for norovirus, investigators at the Southern Nevada Health District pinned the blame on the illness, which is mostly food- or water-borne and can also be spread by an infected person. The exact source has not been determined, although organizers said there have been no obvious commonalities between the cases, such as a restaurant or hotel that all sick people visited.

“It’s just a run-of-the-mill old virus,” Gates said. “It’s a weird year when you don’t have this go through a team.”

Southern Nevada Health District officials issued surveys to attendees and hope to determine the bug’s origin, although that may not be possible, spokeswoman Jennifer Sizemore said.

The outbreak attracted attention when Clark County firefighters responded Friday to a cluster of sick people at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino, where the tournament was headquartered. Eighteen people, including 13 children, were taken from the hotel to hospitals.

None of those taken to emergency rooms stayed for long, Gates said.

Of the estimated 90 to 100 people who fell ill, a Santa Monica, Calif., team accounted for about 50 cases and a Bakersfield, Calif., team accounted for some 25 cases, Gates said. He suspects some people may have caught the sickness before coming to the tournament, and spread it to others during long bus rides.

Nine of 100 teams from across the country were affected, Gates said, but it only struck a little more than 1 percent of 7,000 attendees. One game had to be forfeited because of sick players.

The tournament, organized by the Florida-based Sports Network International, draws teams from 17 states and as far as Panama. Players range in age from 6 to 15.


Associated Press writer Martin Griffith in Reno contributed to this report.

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