Proms are overrated: 111 students fall ill after prom at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium

I was perusing a paper this morning about establishing an appropriate bionome for a large-scale, salt-water aquarium, because that’s what microbiological nerds do (but could a virus take out the microorganisms? probably) when I read that at least 111 students from a suburban high school became ill with stomach flu-like symptoms after their Friday night prom at the Shedd Aquarium.

I never went into the prom thing, probably because my high-school girlfriend broke my heart (or did I break her’s?).

According to CLTV, roughly 400 students from Andrew High School in Tinley Park, Ill., celebrated prom at the aquarium at 1200 S. Lake Shore Dr. on Friday. By Saturday and Sunday, some students started to come down with fevers, chills, vomiting and diarrhea. It is still too soon to tell whether the illness is norovirus.

Officials originally reported that 50 students were ill. By Tuesday morning, the number had climbed to 111.

A spokeswoman for Shedd said the aquarium’s food provider, Sodexo, was investigating. Shedd did “an extra precautionary deep clean of the aquarium” Monday; no one at additional private events hosted at the aquarium since Friday became ill.

“At this time, we do not believe there are any safety concerns related to food or drink being served to our guests visiting the aquarium,” spokeswoman Andrea Rodgers said.

All known details have been reported to the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Marci Condon said her son Jack, a football player at Andrew, was still sick in bed Monday. Dozens of students went to Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells and became sick there. Others fell ill on trips to Indiana, Michigan and Six Flags Great America.

“Clearly, my heart goes out to all our kids and their families who were affected,” Principal Bob Nolting said in a statement. “We have many individuals who work very hard on creating a prom experience that is enjoyable and meaningful. It is saddening to see the excitement of an otherwise positive and memorable event dampened by this situation.”

The Shedd Aquarium’s initial full statement is below:

The care and well-being of all our guests is a top priority for Shedd Aquarium and something that is taken very seriously.  Upon learning Monday morning about alleged food-related illness reported by a number of students who attended the Victor J. Andrew High School Prom at the aquarium Friday evening, Shedd Aquarium management notified our food service provider Sodexo, and Sodexo leadership began to take immediate action to investigate further. Shedd and Sodexo are in regular contact with the school’s administrative office and have reported all known details to the Chicago Department of Public Health.  At this time, we do not believe there are any safety concerns related to food or drink being served to our guests visiting the aquarium.

Sodexo services at Shedd Aquarium has a longstanding, strong performance in food safety and commitment to maintain strict adherence to food safety procedures that lead to clean, safe operations and nutritious food. We welcome health inspections and aggressively self-monitor as well.

Andrea Rodgers, APR

Vice President, Communications & Public Relations