Officials noted Saturday that the beginnings of an investigation of a possible norovirus outbreak have started where early reports suggest possibly hundreds of people were affected, according to Public Health – Seattle & King County.

Russell Investments Center  Image/AirLiner
Russell Investments Center
Image/ AirLiner

The investigation centers around the cafeteria at the Russell Investments Center at 1301 Second Avenue in downtown Seattle. The cafeteria was closed Friday after hundreds experienced symptoms consistent with the contagious gastrointestinal viral infection.

There have been no reports of hospitalizations or severe illness.

According to the health department:

The building cafeteria, which is not open to the public, was at least one place that norovirus transmission may have taken place. However, we have been made aware that people were ill in restrooms and in other parts of the building, so there is potential for infection spread from person-to-person and through contaminated objects, like doorknobs and bathroom facilities.

Public Health Environmental Health staff inspected the facility on Friday afternoon. They advised the building management how to clean and sanitize the food facilities as well as the entire building. For example, in addition to discarding food in the building’s cafeteria, and cleaning and sanitizing all food operation/sales areas, the rest of the building is also being sanitized. Door knobs, phones, handrails, elevator buttons, break areas, microwaves, supply rooms, copiers, linens, bathrooms and other similar areas will be bleach cleaned. Building management was provided with information about norovirus to share with all employees.

Norovirus is a highly contagious viral illness that often goes by other names, such as viral gastroenteritis, stomach flu, and food poisoning.

The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and some stomach cramping. Sometimes people additionally have a low-grade fever, chills,headache, muscle aches, and a general sense of tiredness. The illness often begins suddenly, and the infected person may feel very sick. In most people, the illness is self-limiting with symptoms lasting for about 1 or 2 days. In general, children experience more vomiting than adults do.

Norovirus is spread person to person particularly in crowded, closed places. Norovirus is typically spread through contaminated food and water, touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus and then putting your hand or fingers in your mouth and close contact with someone who is vomiting or has diarrhea.

Norovirus causes more than 20 million illnesses annually in the US, and it is the leading cause of gastroenteritis outbreaks in the United States.