The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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November 19, 2012

Outbreak may be a virus

MANKATO — An outbreak that may have been spread in the Verizon Wireless Center last week appears to be a virus spread through contact with fecal matter, a state health department spokesman said.

The virus is typically spread by someone who is ill, goes to the bathroom and doesn't wash their hands before touching food, water or surfaces, spokesman Doug Schultz said.

It's too soon to determine that the illness was spread through food at the civic center. At this point in the state's investigation, the illness has been tentatively identified based on its symptoms as a norovirus. This type of virus is the leading cause of food-borne illness outbreaks in Minnesota.

More than 50 people were sickened after a Greater Mankato Growth event a week ago, attended by more than 460 people. The health department has also received reports of people who contracted the illness after attending a civic center event for veterans on Wednesday.

Among those veterans were Doug Kampen, of St. Peter, who started feeling pressure in his stomach at about 5 p.m. the next day.

"It came out of nowhere," he said.

After frequent trips to the bathroom that evening, some fitful sleep and a few more days of discomfort, Kampen has fully recovered.

Even so, it wasn't a pleasant few days.

"For the next day or so, Friday, I just lay around on the couch. I didn't really eat anything. If I did, it was juice or little pieces of fruit."

His description matches the symptoms for norovirus, which typically start 24 to 48 hours after infection. Victims are generally sick for one or two days and have no long-term health effects, according to the state health department.

Schultz said the city has been responding well to the outbreak, which is still under investigation.

The city threw away opened food and thoroughly cleaned the civic center.

A spokesman for Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato said no one has been hospitalized after contracting the illness at the civic center.

 

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