(LAS VEGAS) — A youth football tournament held in Las Vegas has been thrown for a loss with the outbreak of a mysterious illness that has sent dozens of kids and parents to hospitals this weekend.
At least 60 players and adults in town for the National Youth Football Championships were afflicted by abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting.
“It felt like we were in an outbreak movie,” said Annalisa Johnson, a parent of the one of the players.
At one hotel, sick guests were loaded on hotel shuttle buses and driven to the hospital.
“I was very scared because I really didn’t know what was going on,” Alastair Jones told ABC News affiliate KTNV. Jones is the coach of the Santa Monica Vikings Tiny Mites and parent of a sick 7-year-old son.
Justin Gates, vice president and competition director for Sports Network International, which organized the tournament, told KTNV people from at least nine teams were affected. There are nearly 100 teams participating in the games.
Capt. John Steinbeck of the Clark County Fire Department said officials were still looking for the source of the outbreak. Complicating the situation for officials is that many of the teams were eating at separate restaurants or staying at different hotels.
“We don’t know the source,” said Steinbeck. “It could be an airborne virus or it could be food borne.”
Dr. Richard Besser, chief health and medical editor for ABC News, said one possible culprit for such a large outbreak is the Norovirus.
Also known as the stomach flu, the Norovirus affects approximately 20 million Americans every year between November and January.
“It’s one of the nastiest germs around. It spreads through person to person contact, it spreads through food and also from contaminated surfaces,” Besser said on Good Morning America. “It’s one of the most contagious ones we see.”
Patients are recommended to stay as hydrated as they can, since the Norovirus can lead to dehydration that results in a trip to the emergency room.
While health officials are still working to officially identify the cause of the outbreak, parents and players say they want the tournament to continue through Sunday.
“None of our kids want to cancel the tournament,” said Annalisa Johnson. “We fundraise for this, we earn this, and all of our kids want to play.”
However, Besser said if it is an outbreak of the Norovirus, players could continue to spread the virus even if they appear to be healthy.
“They’re contagious for two days after their symptoms end,” said Besser. “If they’re on the field playing, they’re going to be spreading.”
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