At least 240 people sickened at MSU hotel

Due to quick thinking and organization in response to reports of illness, Michigan State University Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center quickly moved into action pinpointing dates of possible infection as well as a possible means of the outbreak. The Ingram County Health Department was notified, and the Center voluntarily suspended food service operations on February 22 and 23, 2016. At that time, the facility was thoroughly cleaned and reopened on February 24, 2016. The rapid response by management likely played a role in preventing the spread of the illness. MLive, Garret Ellison outlines the details.

 

EAST LANSING, MI — Health officials are investigating an outbreak of vomiting and diarrhea symptoms among 240 people and counting who attended events at Michigan State University’s Kellogg Center last week.

“This is growing into a big one,” said Linda Vail, Ingham County health officer.

The Ingham County Health Department is asking anyone who was at the Kellogg Center, a 160-room hotel at 219 S. Harrison Road in East Lansing, between Feb. 16 and 21 to fill out an online survey form to aid the investigation, whether they became ill or not.

That survey has helped the county identify dozens more cases since Thursday. Anyone unable to access the survey should call (517) 887-4312.

Vail declined to say whether the culprit is a bacteria or virus, pending confirmation testing being conducted by the state.

On Monday, Feb. 22, the university-owned convention hotel suspended food service and conducted extensive cleaning. The kitchen and State Room restaurant reopened on Wednesday. Vail said that appears to have solved the problem, as no cases outside the investigation dates have arisen since then.

About 4,900 employees and hotel guests passed through the Kellogg Center during the five investigation dates, in which 97 events were held at the busy hotel. Of those events, attendees at 7 have reported the most symptoms.

Those events include an airport executives meeting on Feb. 17, an MSU faculty and staff promotion ceremony and a Connected Math event on Feb 18, a Crimestoppers event on Feb. 19, a Delta Sigma Theta gathering and a hospitality school auction on Feb. 20 and a State Room brunch on Sunday, Feb. 20.

For the past week, the health department has been calling around, trying to collect data from people who were at the hotel on the relevant dates, what they ate, events they attended, rooms they stayed in, bathrooms used, etc.

Nonetheless, Vail is unsure exactly what circumstances led to the outbreak. This week’s snowstorm, which closed state and local government offices, bit into the time the department has been able to investigate, she said. Because of that, “I don’t have a good handle on secondary transmission yet.”

“Sometimes, when an outbreak gets this big, it’s really difficult to go back and pinpoint exactly what started it,” Vail said. Testing will determine the illness, but “we may never get to a point where we can say ‘it started on this day and here’s what happened,'” she said.

On Tuesday, MSU issued a statement which said the school immediately contacted the health department after illnesses were reported and said there’s “no indication that people visiting other locations on campus were affected, and all other dining halls, restaurants and eateries across campus are open.”

Vail said the deep clean and on-site food disposal “should be sufficient to stop the transmission” at the hotel, but urged any employees who may have gotten sick to stay home, regardless of their financial circumstances, until 72 hours after symptoms have abated.

“The most common symptoms are vomiting and diarrhea,” she said. “It’s unpleasant, but people have recovered quickly and without complication.”

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