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Source of norovirus outbreak at Wisconsin festival unknown

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Posted at 6:45 AM, Jun 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-07 15:11:22-04
CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (AP) -- Health officials in the Chippewa Falls area are working with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to determine the source of a norovirus infection that plagued dozens of people at a festival at the Northern Wisconsin State Fairgrounds last month.
 
The Leader-Telegram reported that at least 60 adults and children became sick with gastroenteritis after attending the Special Kids Day event.
 
"Laboratory testing identified norovirus as the cause of the infection," said Jennifer Miller, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health Services. "The source of the outbreak remains under investigation. Nine local health departments in the western public health region are working with DPH on the investigation."
 About 1,000 people from 26 school districts attended the two-day festival, said Tom Leuck, the event's organizer.
 
"I really don't know what happened," Leuck said. "I got a report that Monday (May 22) from a teacher that people were sick. I contacted the Chippewa County Health Department. I don't have any answers of where it came from. I don't know; I'd like to know."
 
Leuck said hugging and physical contact may have contributed to the spread of the illness.
 
"It's really sad," Leuck said. "(Food handlers) were wearing gloves and washing their hands."
 
Special Kids Day is an annual event for children with disabilities that features games, food and music. The 64-year-old created the event nearly 20 years ago. Leuck sells brats at stands across the state to raise money for the event.