OCEAN CITY — The Cape May County and state health departments are investigating reports of an illness that affected dozens of people who attended a wedding at the Flanders Hotel last month.
Kevin Thomas, public health coordinator for the county, said Monday that 42 of 150 guests were confirmed to have fallen ill a day or two after the April 30 wedding.
He said the state was notified as is mandated of the “suspicious outbreak” and that the county is surveying each of the affected people to identify possible causes.
“No one has ever gotten sick here before,” said Karen Bergman, catering director for the Flanders. “We’re very careful. We play by the rules. We take pride in what we do.”
Food poisoning and norovirus are the likeliest reasons for the outbreak, Thomas said, although it is possible no definitive cause will be identified.
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“It’s difficult to determine,” he said, especially since the two illnesses share many of the same signs and symptoms.
Norovirus is a highly contagious disease that can be transmitted from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It causes 19 million to 21 million illnesses a year, the center said.
“We find no fault with the Flanders,” said Lois Marcasciano, mother of the bride. “It was a flukey thing that people got sick. I would go back there again. I would have another wedding there.”
Thomas said the county received its first call May 4 that a wedding guest had fallen ill and that a health inspector visited the Flanders the same day. The facility passed the inspection and was not shut down at any time, he said.
There have been no other complaints involving the Flanders in the past five years, Thomas said.
Once the surveys from the affected guests are completed, the information will be analyzed by the state, he said.
Signs of norovirus usually begin 24 to 48 hours after exposure and last one to three days. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, low-grade fever and abdominal pain. Signs of food-borne illness usually start within hours of consuming contaminated food. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.