Food vendors at the Russell Investments Center in Seattle were cleared by inspectors and allowed to reopen Wednesday, days after an outbreak of highly contagious norovirus sickened hundreds who worked in the high-rise building.
Of 600 people who attended a catered event at the building Dec. 1, more than 200 people reported suffering symptoms of norovirus, which causes acute vomiting, diarrhea and gastrointestinal distress, officials with Public Health — Seattle & King County said.
Many more — perhaps hundreds — may actually have fallen ill but were not documented. After health officials had enough evidence to confirm norovirus as the culprit, they stopped tallying survey results, said James Apa, a spokesman for the agency.
“Not collecting more data on magnitude; no indication from building or clients of new outbreak or spread to other locations,” Apa said in an email.
The 42-story building at 1301 Second Ave. was cleaned top to bottom, with special attention to high-touch sites such as doorknobs and elevator buttons, health officials said.
The site houses several high-profile clients, including Zillow, Nordstrom and Marler Clark, the Seattle food-safety law firm.
The Dec. 1 event was catered by Bon Appétit Management, a Palo Alto, Calif., firm that supplies restaurant services in 33 states. Health officials began receiving reports within days of people with symptoms of norovirus and notified tenants in the building late Thursday and Friday. Tests to identify the exact strain of the bug are pending from the state health department.
Norovirus is the most common cause of foodborne illness in the United States, where it is often spread from the unwashed hands of food workers. The virus spreads easily from person to person, in the air after vomiting or diarrhea or on surfaces where it can linger.
The germ is very common in winter months. Good hand hygiene and frequent sanitation of surfaces can help stop the spread, health officials said.