Norovirus 2016: New Theatre Investigation Expands As Hundreds More Become Ill

The New Theatre Restaurant norovirus investigation has expanded to include at least 390 people. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment fears a potential outbreak as dozens of people have reported symptoms consistent with a norovirus infection after attending performances at the Kansas dinner theater.

As previously reported by the Inquisitr, KDHE officials announced earlier this week that up to 100 people who ate at the New Theatre Restaurant on January 17 may have been stricken with a norovirus infection. The agency, along with the Kansas Department of Agriculture, and the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment, are urging people who attended any recent performances complete an online confidential survey on whether they feel sick or not.

The Kansas City Star reports that the Overland Park restaurant is working closely with health authorities to determine the source of the norovirus outbreak.

Rob McGraw, vice president of sales and marketing for the theater, said three employees have become ill from a norovirus infection. The employees were exposed on January 17 by a guest who has since tested positive for the virus.

So far, no other staff members, including kitchen employees, have become sick. While servers bring drinks and desserts directly to customers, the restaurant serves most of the food buffet-style.

Although some customers have canceled reservations, most remain supportive of the dinner theater. McGraw says the restaurant is nearly sold out through the end of February.

“They say, ‘We know this is not your fault, and we will continue to come,'” McGraw said. “The theater, the entire theater, is thoroughly cleaned every day.”

A Concordia, Missouri, woman who attended a January 16 show said she won’t forget her reaction to the norovirus.

“It was one heck of a rough night, I’ll tell you,” Nancy Gilbertson told local TV station KMBC. “I got violently ill. It was, like, one minute I was fine and the next, I couldn’t leave the bathroom.”

As symptoms worsened, her husband insisted on going to the hospital. Gilbertson mentioned she had eaten at New Theatre the day before and had the same meal as another customer who also got sick.

Despite her experience, a norovirus outbreak isn’t going to stop Gilbertson from attending future shows at the New Theatre Restaurant

“After 15 years and this is the first time we’ve had a problem,” she said. “I’m not ready to do that.”

Another norovirus outbreak is believed to have sickened 50 people in Bellevue, Washington. After eating at a Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurant, several people attending a private party late last week started getting sick.

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A statement put out by the restaurant says the incident is being taken “very seriously” and is fully cooperating with Seattle health officials. Several employees have also been reported ill with symptoms that point to norovirus.

While the cases are being investigated, the restaurant’s food permit has been suspended and is currently closed for cleaning and sanitizing. While suspected, health authorities have not confirmed the illnesses were caused by the norovirus, as lab test results are still pending.

A norovirus outbreak spreads fairly easily and quickly through contact with contaminated food or another sick person. Symptoms, including diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach pain, usually show up between 12 and 48 hours after exposure.

An estimated 19 to 21 million people are sickened with a norovirus infection every year. According to health experts, an outbreak most commonly occurs during the winter and the best protection against the virus is proper hand washing.

The New Theatre Restaurant holds about 625 people and the risk of an outbreak significantly increases whenever a large group of people is gathered in one area. Kansas health officials have not commented specifically on anyone who has been stricken with the norovirus.

[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]