- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 8, 2003

A cleaner-than-new Hyatt Dulles Hotel will resume accepting guests as usual today after turning away about 1,000 patrons during the weekend, after an outbreak of the norovirus, more commonly known as “cruise sickness” because it has infected thousands of cruise-ship passengers in the past year.

Cleanup crews have been scouring the 317-room hotel just south of Dulles Toll Road, within view of Washington Dulles International Airport.

“Everything has been cleaned: drapes, all the bedding, curtain rods, door handles, elevator buttons,” said the general manager, Jim Deuel.

A chlorine solution was applied to hard surfaces that people are likely to touch, Mr. Deuel said as he swiped his fingers across a check-in counter.

“You can catch it, just from touching it,” he said, emphasizing that the infection is not life-threatening but usually causes vomiting and diarrhea.

About 60 people were infected before the Fairfax County Health Department determined and reported Friday that the norovirus was the cause. Some of the sick had attended two wedding receptions at the hotel.

Hyatt management immediately made arrangements for patrons to go to other hotels and also moved scheduled meetings. Herndon High School’s prom Saturday night was shifted to the Hyatt in Reston.

“We made all arrangements for them,” said a clerk at the 15-year-old Hyatt Dulles.

“We just took precautions so that no one might be affected,” Mr. Deuel said.

The first clue about the infection came when a patron reported being sick last Monday morning. In the afternoon, Mr. Deuel learned that another customer had a similar sickness, then another, and another.

That’s when he contacted county health officials, who began testing the guests who had become sick. The sickness usually takes effect within 48 hours after infection, and normal health returns a couple days later.

Guests who were not ill chose to remain in about 12 hotel rooms, but two church groups and a retirement party moved to other locations.

The management advised guests to leave until the cleaning was done.

Although no infectious link could be found during a thorough examination, the hotel restaurant was also closed. None of the hotel employees has gotten sick.

About 90 percent of the 317 rooms were booked before the norovirus was detected.

Mr. Deuel said about 1,000 people would have occupied those rooms Friday, Saturday and last night.

Fairfax County health officials could not be contacted yesterday. At last report, officials were asking more than 350 guests and former guests about their recent activities in an effort to find the source of the virus.

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