NY resort closed due to norovirus outbreak; ill patrons share stories using #MoChunk hashtag

Upstate New York in February is not something that makes me think resort vacation. But what do I know. Mohonk Mountain House, a popular getaway spot in the Catskills, is also the site of a big norovirus outbreak. According to NPR, hundreds of visitors and staff have become ill in the past 10 days.

[The resort]  closed Friday afternoon so that cleaning crews from a company that specializes in disaster responses can scour the place after an outbreak of intestinal illness. The cleanup is expected to take a week. Screen Shot 2014-02-07 at 10.36.36 PM

Kyle Bonner, a 21-year-old graduate student at Monmouth University, and his partner were among the guests who got sick. They stayed at the resort last weekend, checking out Sunday morning. “I’m still not feeling well. I was sick all day Monday and Tuesday,” he tells Shots. His partner was treated for dehydration at a hospital ER in New Jersey after they got home.

“What bothers me the most is that there was a large conference a few days before we arrived and many of the participants contracted the same virus,” Bonner in a review on the website TripAdvisor.

Bonner [says] that he didn’t need to go to Mohonk last weekend. The resort should have told him and other guests that there was a “fast-moving virus” on the premises so they could have changed their plans.

Quite a few attendees of a meeting of at the resort late last week got sick. Many made the best of it with on Twitter. You can read their accounts by searching for the evocative hashtag #MoChunk.

A message to the resort’s staff was reprinted in the Times Herald-Record and included the below explination for closing:

Over the course of the last few days, it has become increasingly clear to us that the virus that has caused illness among staff and guests is very persistent.

Working with the Ulster County and New York State Departments of Health, we have already implemented many recommended measures to address this issue and have determined that further action needs to be taken.

After careful consideration of our options, we have decided that the best course of action is to close for a week and hire a contractor that specializes in this type of work to sanitize the property.

Mohonk Mountain House is taking a unique step to close for a week to clean and sanitize the site; actions like that are often only seen on cruise ships. An unstated benefit of closing for a week is that any staff who are ill should have time to recover from their symptoms and get past the high-shedding stage – without the temptation to show up to work sick.

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About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.