State Health Department Investigates Gastrointestinal Illness Outbreak Associated with Six Flags Resort

Individuals Advised to Contact Call Center to Report Illness

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 21, 2008) – The New York State Health Department is investigating nearly 200 reports of gastrointestinal illness reported by people who stayed at the Six Flags Great Escape Lodge and Indoor Waterpark in Queensbury during March 7 – 19.

A Health Department Call Center at 1-800-278-2965 has received over 300 calls from individuals seeking information or to report symptoms of diarrhea and or vomiting after staying at the Six Flags resort. Calls were made by residents in 18 counties in New York State, six other states, and Canada. Two persons have been hospitalized and discharged.

State Health officials are currently awaiting the results of laboratory tests on stool samples to determine the cause of the illness. Preliminary information obtained from interviews of sick persons indicates that the illness may be a norovirus (also called calicivirus), which is usually very contagious. The virus is generally spread from person to person by direct contact and/or by touching contaminated surfaces or objects.

Norovirus outbreaks have been linked in the past to ill food handlers and contaminated food or water. Since 2005, there have been 9 confirmed food borne norovirus outbreaks and 6 suspect outbreaks in the state. While the illness usually lasts 1 to 2 days and is not considered serious for the general population, young children, the elderly and those with chronic underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes, may develop more severe complications and should consult with their health care provider.

The State Health Department's investigation into the outbreak began on Monday, March 17, after receiving reports of gastrointestinal illness associated with the Six Flags Resort. That same day, the department advised Six Flags to implement infection control measures, including thorough cleaning and disinfection of the waterpark and the resort; a thorough review of the resort's aquatic pools and food service operations; review of safe food handling and proper hygiene procedures; and identification and exclusion of ill-food workers.

As a result of the investigation, which included interviewing the resort's employees, the Tall Tales restaurant has closed temporarily as of late last evening. Trapper's Buffet was also closed. The closings are due to food worker illnesses that were identified by state investigators. The department has observed compliance and cooperation by the resort in thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting the premises.

Drinking water and swimming pool water samples have tested negative for bacteria and showed satisfactory disinfection levels. State Health Department staff have been on-site conducting daily monitoring at the resort since the investigation began in order to reduce the further spread of illness.

Follow-up interviews are being conducted with ill people to identify common exposures. Additionally, the department has reached out to groups that stayed at the resort as part of its investigation. The State Health department has contacted health care providers and local health departments to make them aware of the outbreak.