State and local health officials are investigating a widespread outbreak of intestinal illness that afflicted competitors and spectators at a statewide cheerleading tournament during the weekend.
By Wednesday afternoon, the number of confirmed sick was 36, by Thursday nearly 200 cases had been reported.
Friday, the Snohomish Health District said that the Norovirus is believed to have been spread from vomit in the Comcast arena from sick attendees. By Friday afternoon, 229 people were reported to be ill.
Ana Krafchick 16, a cheerleader for Ballard High School, was one of many who became ill.
“First we all thought it was something to do with food, and then we found out that multiple squads were also sick so it couldn’t have possibly been the food that we all brought,” Krafchick said Tuesday.
Her coach, Nancyellen Elster, said several others became ill as well. “Half my team came down ill with GI (gastro-intestinal) symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea, fever, headaches . It was so fast that I contacted a couple of my coach friends and their teams were ill as well.”
The Washington State Department of Health has received calls from 19 cheerleading squads all reporting at least one person sick. More than 1,000 cheerleaders competed in the event at Everett's Comcast Arena last week and more than 3,000 spectators attended.
“Our immediate concerns are for those who have been affected by this illness and our thoughts are with them,” said Washington Interscholastic Activities Association Executive Director Mike Colbrese. The WIAA hosted the event.
The investigation is being conducted jointly by the Washington State Department of Health and the Snohomish Health District. So far, it has included collecting samples for testing at a laboratory, and sending a questionnaire to participants.
“I went to our state championship and everyone was totally fine and I was totally fine until the next day," Krafchick said. "I woke up in the middle of the night feeling really nauseous and that’s when everything started, basically I was throwing up all night. I ended up blacking out and having to go to the hospital.”
Her mother, Ellen Langlan, said she learned that others were reporting the illness shortly after getting Ana to the doctor.
“While we were in the emergency room, we started getting texts from teammates that were all talking about the same thing," Langlan said. "We thought, 'Oh, was it something that happened during their cheer competition Saturday night,' but we still don’t know.”
Health officials said it could take a few days to determine the cause of this mysterious illness, but that’s if they are able to find someone currently infected. Otherwise, it may take longer to get back lab results from those who visited the hospital.
Don Moyer with the State Department of Health said Wednesday that no samples had been taken or tested and that the departmentn is in the early stages of its investigation into the matter.
The Snohomish County spoke with Comcast after the illnesses came to light and said that the arena is being disinfected.
In the meantime, Krafchick, her friends, and family are trying to figure it out on their own.
“I can’t think of anything else that we all ate at the same time or drank at the same time that would make us sick,” Krafchick said.
People who attended the event and have severe symptoms are advised to contact a health care provider.