An investigation is under way to determine what caused more than 500 people to become ill with norovirus, following a stay at the Great Escape Lodge & Indoor Waterpark in Lake George, N.Y.

Officials first became aware of patrons with gastrointestinal illness on March 17, according to New York State Department of Health Spokesperson Beth Goldberg. Testing confirmed that the culprit was norovirus, a common cause of acute gastrointestinal illness in both sporadic cases and outbreaks.

However, it is not yet clear whether the facility’s aquatic features played a role in the outbreak. Investigations as to the root cause are still ongoing, according to Goldberg. She said the incident appears typical of other norovirus occurrences.

“Common settings of reported outbreaks are restaurants, nursing homes, schools, and vacation and cruise settings,” said Goldberg. “There are multiple ways the virus may have been transmitted in [a waterpark resort]. Operators of [these] facilities should continue to monitor their standard operating procedures and code compliance for these areas to protect the public that use these services.”

As of press time no one from the Great Escape Lodge responded to requests for comment. But in response to the outbreak, more than 40 guests have brought a lawsuit against operators, seeking injunctive relief for alleged unsafe or unsanitary conditions at the resort.

Situated across the road from Six Flags Great Escape theme park, the Six Flags Great Escape Lodge is the first indoor water park from Six Flags and the first indoor waterpark resort in New York state. Opened in February 2006, the resort is themed for the local historic Adirondack Mountain region and includes 200 guest suites and 38,000-square-foot White Water Bay waterpark.

Norovirus symptoms include nausea, vomiting and stomach cramps. The virus is passed via contact with stool or vomit and can be spread person to person by eating contaminated food, or touching contaminated surfaces.

Outbreaks are common and often result in large attack rates because:

  • It only takes a small number of viral particles to cause illness
  • The virus is able to survive on environmental surfaces and can be transmitted in many ways
  • People can shed the virus for many days after symptoms resolve.