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Virus plagues Chcago fund-raiser

A norovirus--often labeled the "stomach flu"--is blamed for sickening more than 150 guests and workers at a fund-raising event at Chicago's famed Drake Hotel 11 days ago. Local health officials praised the hotel for its swift action in addressing the problem and said there was no evidence that the outbreak had spread.

Norovirus infections may cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms usually last no more than two days. Although the disease can be a danger to the very young, the elderly and the infirm, it is rarely serious for otherwise healthy people.

Norovirus infection is thought to be the culprit behind as many as half of all outbreaks of food-related illness, the CDC says. Food handlers suffering from gastroenteritis should not work until two or three days after they feel better, the agency recommends. Food handlers should also be scrupulous about hand washing. Any linen at risk of contamination should be promptly washed in hot water. Oysters--a common host--should be obtained from reputable sources and tracking documentation kept on hand. Raw vegetables should always be thoroughly washed before serving, the CDC says.

For more advice on noroviruses from the CDC, click here.

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