At last count, 44 people reported becoming sick during a Creative Health Care Management convention that drew about 300 people Tuesday through Friday to Sawmill Creek.
The count on the number of sick remains fluid, said Bob England, environmental health director for the Erie County Health Department.
“Tomorrow it may be more. By the end of the day, it may be less,” he said.
Testing of stool samples and samples of food served at the conference is ongoing, and inspectors have looked at food preparation at Sawmill Creek, England said. In addition, almost 100 questionnaires were collected from attendees, said Pete Schade, Erie County’s health commissioner.
"I’ve got four stacks of different surveys we went through,” he said.
Sawmill Creek has been “very cooperative” during the probe, England said.
The sudden onset of the illnesses led to the theory that the illness might have been caused by a norovirus, the health officials said. Noroviruses, also known as the “Norwalk virus,” cause vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and stomach pain. The name is derived from an outbreak that occurred in Norwalk, Ohio, in 1968. One sample came back positive for norovirus.
“We can’t say it’s a confirmed outbreak until we have another one,” Schade said.
He said that to prevent the spread of noroviruses (and many other diseases) it’s important for people to wash their hands thoroughly.
England said officials are still trying to identify the illness and figure out where it came from. It’s not known, for example, whether the illnesses could have come from one of the participants at the conference arriving sick and spreading it to others.
Inspections so far have not established, either, that the illness came from food served at Sawmill Creek, England said.
“We didn’t identify any existing or ongoing issues that would have created violations in our code,” England said. “It’s an ongoing investigation. We can’t draw any conclusions yet.”