New norovirus cases prompt food services closure at resort
Resort rep says two weddings were to be held at the resort this weekend
Food and beverage service at the Stanhope Beach Resort has been shut down indefinitely while staff and health workers rid the resort of a gastrointestinal illness that has made an additional 115 people sick.
More than 100 people that attended four weddings from Thursday to Sunday came down with symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramping.
"The health order, and the facility knows, that it means it is closed to any further functions or beverage and meal functions until further notice," Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.'s chief public health officer, says.
Morrison says the resort owners, "are very co-operative and they, also, they don't want to see any more people get sick so they agreed that this is the best and the safest thing to do. When we get this kind of information that's what we want to do, we want to protect people from getting this in any further events and so really that's why we issued, went to the step of issuing the order."
Paul Murphy, VP of finance and corporate counsel with D.P. Murphy Inc., representing the resort says that losing money during the busy tourist season is not the resort's top priority right now. He says, the health and safety of guests is the focus.
"Certainly we thought it was behind us, but we found out after this weekend that isn't the case," says Murphy. "We fully agree with the Chief Public Health Officer's decision to issue the order to shut us down for the time being."
Though proper cleaning procedures were followed after the first outbreak two weeks ago, Murphy says shutting down food service will help contain the problem.
"I think this time the big difference will be with us being shut down, it will allow us to not have people coming and going, which is probably what caused it to reappear," he says, "So this break will allow us to fully sanitize everything without having guests come in which should allow the problem to be solved."
"Hopefully we'll catch the end of the season and look forward to a new, fresh start in 2013."
Murphy says the resort will continue to work closely with the health department to fix the problem.
"It's certainly bad news, that's the frustrating part is often times — this could have happened to anybody. We know in Halifax, The Bicycle Thief recently had a similar outbreak so it's not necessarily in our control and that's the tough part to swallow."
Murphy says there were two weddings scheduled for this weekend but the resort has had to make alternate arragements.
"We've reached out to a number of our guests coming up in the next few weeks. We're working hard with them to make alternative arrangements, whether it be another property of ours, or another facility that can handle their weddings or their meetings. Hopefully we can get positive resolutions for all of them."
Murphy says he's not sure how long food and beverage service at the resort will remain closed.
"We don't know for sure, it probably will definitely not be this week and we'll just wait for the Department of Health, or the Chief Public Health Officer to give us the go ahead. We're optimistic that it will be perhaps sometime next week or the week after."
Food and drink service to remain closed
Morrison says stool samples from some of the latest people who have become ill, came back positive for the virus.
Two weekends ago, 60 cases of norovirus were reported. There were no new cases in the interim."Certainly we didn't have any further illnesses reported to us despite a number of events and functions at the resort over the last two weeks, and then all of a sudden over the weekend — it's almost like the virus may have been reintroduced," says Morrison, "and, again, we're in the process of investigating."
No one has been hospitalized but a couple people did seek medical help, says Morrison.
After new tests confirmed this latest outbreak was norovirus, officials issued a health order suspending all food and beverage service at the resort and the Red Dory restaurant adjacent to the resort. The resort itself remains open.
Morrison says the food and beverage service and Red Dory restaurant will remain closed until there are no new cases reported and health officials are satisfied with the cleaning and disinfection procedures.
"What we know about norovirus is that it's really contagious. It can spread easily from person to person, or if an infected person handles food."
"Or water can be a source," Morrison adds. "And the other way it can be spread is airborne."
Morrison says the virus can remain in the air for a number of hours.