The investigation of an outbreak of norovirus infection at New Theatre Restaurant has expanded, with more than 390 people having reported illness.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is now looking at people who attended shows at Overland Park’s New Theatre from Jan. 15 to the present. So far, four people who became ill have laboratory specimens that confirmed norovirus.
On Wednesday, the health department announced that more than 100 people had become ill after attending shows on Jan. 17. The agency is working with the Kansas Department of Agriculture and the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment on the case and asked to hear from people who attended recent performances.
Based on the reports of illness, the state health department would like all people — whether they became ill or not — who attended performances since Jan. 15 to fill out its secure, confidential online survey at tinyurl.com/newtheatre2016. The agency is still investigating the source of the illness.
Officials said the New Theatre Restaurant, at 9229 Foster St., has been fully cooperating with this investigation.
Rob McGraw, vice president of sales and marketing for the theater, said that as he understands it, only three employees have been confirmed for norovirus. The employees served a man who attended the matinee performance on Jan. 17 and that man also has been confirmed to have norovirus, McGraw said. He said no other employees, including kitchen workers, have fallen ill since the performances.
A few theater customers have canceled reservations and some have rescheduled, but McGraw said he has heard from many supportive season ticket holders and the theater is sold out nearly through the end of February.
“They say, ‘We know this is not your fault, and we will continue to come,’ ” McGraw said. “The theater, the entire theater, is thoroughly cleaned every day.”
The theater holds about 625 people. Most of the food is served on the buffet, but servers bring drinks and desserts to the tables.
Officials with the health department declined to comment on the people who have been confirmed as having norovirus.
According to the health department, norovirus is very easily spread. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach pain. A person develops symptoms 12 to 48 hours after being exposed, and most people get better within one to three days. The best way to prevent norovirus is proper handwashing.
Norovirus causes an estimated 19 million to 21 million people to become ill each year and is more common in the winter. Norovirus is spread from person to person by touching contaminated surfaces or through contaminated food or water. People who are ill with norovirus symptoms should not prepare food or care for others.
A norovirus outbreak also hit Chipotle restaurants in California and Boston last year.
People with questions or concerns about the outbreak may call the health department’s Epidemiology Hotline at 877-427-7317.