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Norovirus outbreak suspected after 40 become ill at South Devon holiday attraction

By Herald Express  |  Posted: August 12, 2014

River Dart Country Park

River Dart Country Park

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By Aidan Phillips

Public Health officials have confirmed that they suspect Norovirus is the cause of an outbreak of sickness at the River Dart Country Park.

Over the weekend more than 40 cases were reported at the holiday park near Ashburton after holidaymakers reported similar symptoms of sickness and diarrhoea.

The pirate ship lake at the holiday park near Ashburton has been drained and closed while the source of the sickness bug is investigated.

The owners of the holiday park confirmed that 40 cases had been reported by Saturday, with five more on Sunday and one on Monday.

Samples and specimens were passed to South Hams District Council Environmental Health department. Results of tests are expected in two days’ time.

Dr Sarah Harrison, Interim Deputy Director of Health Protection for the Devon, Cornwall and Somerset Public Health England Centre said: “Norovirus, which we suspect is causing people to become unwell, usually leads to mild diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal or stomach cramps that people recover from quickly.

“There is no specific treatment, but if affected, it is important to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

“PHE is also working with Environmental Health Officers from the council to ensure that appropriate precautions and procedures are in place Samples have been collected from those who have been unwell in order to identify the organism causing the infection.

“PHE will also be asking those affected to complete a quick questionnaire in order to establish any common links between those affected. This can help identify how the infection started and spread.”

On its website, NHS Choices said Norovirus is the “most common stomach bug in the UK.”

“The virus is highly contagious. It can affect people of all ages and causes vomiting and diarrhoea.

“There's no specific cure for norovirus, so you have to let it run its course. It's usually mild and shouldn't last more than a couple of days.

“Although having norovirus can be unpleasant, it's not usually dangerous and most people make a full recovery within a couple of days without having to see their GP.”

South Hams District Council’s Head of Environmental Health, Ian Bollans, confirmed that the Council’s environmental health officers had visited the site.

He said: “The management have cooperated fully with the investigation and following our visits, the owner has been issued with several recommendations to help reduce the risk to other visitors.

“At this point, with the immediate measures being undertaken by staff at the premises and cooperation of guests to reduce the risk of ongoing infection, the site will remain open."

General Manager Roger Sell said: “A number of diarrhoea and vomiting cases were reported over the weekend and the team at River Dart Country Park is doing everything that it can to find the source and eradicate the problem.”

He said symptoms 'seem to last 12 hours' and that 'a large amount' of people who had become ill had not been in or near the pirate lake, but they had closed it as a precaution.

River Dart Country Park carried out a survey on Saturday of how many people had contracted the illness and where they had been in the park.

In a statement on its Facebook page last Saturday, the company said: “We would like to assure everyone that we are taking this incident very seriously as it is not one we have ever experienced before in the 38 years we have been  open.

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