36 in county now report falling ill after cheerleading event

EVERETT — The number of cheerleaders and other people who became ill with vomiting and diarrhea after attending a statewide competition at Comcast Arena last weekend continues to grow, with 36 people in Snohomish County reporting they were sickened.

No information was immediately available on how many were students and how many were adults, said Suzanne Pate, spokeswoman for the Snohomish Health District.

Meanwhile, every member of the 52 squads of high school cheerleading and dance teams that participated in Saturday’s competition is being surveyed to find out if they became sick, said Donn Moyer, a state Department of Health spokesman. The survey will also ask if a family member or friend became ill. It was initially thought that only 45 squads participated.

The online survey was sent out on Wednesday, so it’s too early to know how many of the estimated 3,000 people who attended or participated were affected, he said.

However, health officials have heard reports that 19 of 52 participating high school squads had at least one team member who was ill, he said.

“It could be that there will be cases from every part of the state,” Moyer said.

It’s difficult to know exactly what caused people to get sick, because lots of types of viruses and bacteria can cause similar symptoms, he said.

Among them is norovirus, which sickens about 20 million people a year nationally.

The virus is highly contagious and can easily spread from person to person, especially in closed places.

If someone becomes ill, health officials advise clearing and sanitizing the areas they have been in contact with. If symptoms linger, they should check in with a medical clinic.

A thorough cleaning of Comcast Arena took place Wednesday. “Workers are wiping down every single surface in the arena with a bleach solution: restrooms, seats, door handles — everything,” said Kim Bedier, general manager at the Comcast Arena at Everett Events Center.

Pate said the health district made recommendations on disinfection. Arena officials have been cooperating with the health district and reacted quickly when they learned that people had become ill.

Area high schools participating in Saturday’s events include Everett, Marysville Pilchuck, Meadowdale, Oak Harbor and Snohomish, according to the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.

No one from the Everett squad has become ill, said Mary Waggoner, school district spokeswoman.

The Marysville School District reported Tuesday that five members of the Marysville Pilchuck cheerleading squad became sick.

Herald Writer Debra Smith contributed to this report.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com.

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