Norovirus blamed for sickening journalists at Bali Hai restaurant

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SAN DIEGO — The illness that sickened dozens of area journalists and others who attended an industry event last week on Shelter Island was confirmed by county health officials Tuesday to be norovirus GI.

About 60 people fell ill following last Wednesday’s San Diego Society of Professional Journalists awards banquet at the Bali Hai restaurant.

“Three out of three specimens taken from ill individuals and tested at the county of San Diego Public Health Laboratory were found to have this virus,” said Dr. Eric McDonald, medical director of epidemiology and immunizations services for the county Health and Human Services Agency, in an email to City News Service.

In a note to members, SPJ president Matthew T. Hall said tests are being run on two or three additional people, and an investigation into the source is continuing.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, norovirus is highly contagious and can be contracted from an infected person, consuming contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. The virus causes the stomach and intestines to become inflamed, leading to stomach pain, nausea and diarrhea.

Norovirus is frequently blamed for sickening passengers on cruise ships.

No restaurant patrons outside of the SPJ event are known to have become sick. McDonald said the Bali Hai has already taken action that adheres to county Department of Environmental Health guidelines.

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