So far, the cases are all connected to Sawmill Creek Resort, on Cleveland Road in Huron Township, but the number also includes 15 people who were not part of a health care conference held at the resort last week, according to Erie County health officials.
When the Register first reported on the illnesses earlier this week, the dozens of known sicknesses involved only participants in that conference.
Sawmill Creek owner Greg Hill said Friday he believes the illness has waned. “I just hope it’s all over. The last couple of days I have not heard of any problems,” Hill said. “I am knocking on wood right now.”
Bob England, Erie County’s environmental health director, said he confirmed 75 cases as of Friday afternoon, although calls are still coming in. The count now includes 60 people who attended the Creative Health Management Convention last week at the resort. It also includes an additional 15 people who have since become sick, but were either guests or employees of Sawmill Creek.
Three tests of stool samples have revealed the presence of norovirus, and the tests have not detected bacteria, leading health officials to state unequivocally the illness is norovirus.
The county health department has not been able to determine if the illness originated locally or was brought in by one of the guests at last week’s convention, England said.
“That’s where it can really do a lot of damage, in an environment where there are a lot of people mingling together,” he said.
England said he has also has heard reports of Firelands Regional Medical Center treating additional sick people, suggesting the outbreak might be regional.
Alex Cruey, a spokeswoman for the hospital, said a few nurses have become sick with the symptoms, while theemergency room has reported a spike in people vomiting, as well as a small increase in people reporting diarrhea.
The hospital has not run tests to determine if norovirus caused the illnesses, she said, although the health department would likely order such tests if more people were reported ill.
The symptoms of norovirus, a flu-like illness, arrive violently, but people who are sick usually recover within a few hours, England said. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and stomach pain.
Hill said it’s likely someone at the convention, which had about 370 people, brought in the illness.
“We’ve never had this problem before,” Hill said. “We are open to the world. We allow people to come to the hotel, like every hotel does.”
Sawmill Creek always emphasizes cleanliness, but has redoubled its efforts the past few days to make sure all surfaces are cleaned again and again, he said.
“We probably have the cleanest hotel in Erie County right now,” he said, adding that about five employees have become sick and were sent home for several days.
Business at Sawmill Creek has not been hurt by the outbreak, he said.