Outbreak linked to Great Escape levels off as 435 cases are reported

QUEENSBURY - The outbreak of gastro-intestinal illness linked to the Great Escape Lodge & Indoor Waterpark widened this week to 435 reporting symptoms as of Thursday, but the number of new cases has leveled off, according to the state Health Department. Laboratory tests ordered by the agency identified the offending germ as the Norwalk virus, which causes symptoms like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, like those guests at the Waterpark last week reported to their doctors and to the Health Department call center. The agency has not yet identified the source of the outbreak, but agency employees are still on site monitoring the operation of Great Escape's water attractions, accommodations, and restaurant. In the past week, the new cases were apparently illnesses that occurred the first several days of the outbreak, the Health Department reported Thursday. Monday, Manhattan lawyer John Aretakis filed a lawsuit in Warren County Supreme Court against the Great Escape, alleging unhealthy conditions at the Lodge and Waterpark caused his seven clients to become ill. Four of the seven are siblings from Saratoga County, and the three others are individuals from elsewhere in the Capital Region. The lawsuit does not specify a dollar figure for damages claimed. Aretakis said Thursday he is planning to expand the lawsuit to include more plaintiffs, considering he has received several dozen calls from people in the last few days seeking information on possible legal action against the Great Escape Lodge & Waterpark. Phone calls placed to Great Escape officials were not returned by press time Thursday. But a statement released by the Great Escape said that samples of drinking water analyzed by the Department of Health as well as the water in the indoor waterpark, tested negative for bacteria and showed satisfactory disinfection levels. State officials are still gathering more information on the outbreak, including investigating its source, according to agency spokeswoman Claire Pospisil. She said the outbreak peaked during the weekend of March 15. She said her agency is at the Lodge and Waterpark to make sure than infection control procedures are being followed, including repeated disinfection, hand hygiene and safe food handling methods. She has said her agency did not find any substandard procedures at the Great Escape. The agency is also making sure that any Lodge or Waterpark employees who might be ill stay away from work for at least 48 hours after symptoms subside.

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