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Children Sickened After Visits to Aquarium


Institutional and commercial buildings present a host of potential risks to occupants and visitors. For maintenance and engineering, these risks represent high priorities for ensuring front-line technicians performance comprehensive preventive and predictive maintenance. While traditional risks have included fires, hazardous chemicals and building materials, and slips and falls, occupants increasingly face risks related to illness caused by conditions and activities in facilities. The world-famous Shedd Aquarium in Chicago offers a case in point.

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About 15 kindergartners from a Chicago parochial school became ill after a recent visit to the aquarium and exhibited the same norovirus-like symptoms as students from Andrew High School that held its prom at the aquarium, Chicago Archdiocese and public health representatives said.

Health officials have not yet pinpointed the source of what sickened students from St. Clement School, following their April 17 visit to the aquarium, or what prompted more than 100 Andrew students to fall ill following their April 27 prom held at the Shedd, according to The Chicago Tribune.

Andrea Rodgers, a spokeswoman for the Shedd Aquarium, says the facility will continue to work with city, Cook County and state officials “on any inquiry,” but that the city health department “informed us that there are no outstanding violations to any of our catering or restaurant facilities and no restrictions to operations.”

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The aquarium has taken “several extra precautionary measures over the last few days,” Rodgers says, including an “additional deep sanitation of all areas of the aquarium, an internal review of all food preparation, service processes and environmental cleaning procedures.”

County health officials said they had not yet determined the illness among some 111 Andrew students but that their symptoms were consistent with norovirus. About 400 people had attended the prom at the aquarium.

Norovirus spreads quickly and is found in the vomit or feces of those infected with the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is transmitted by consuming contaminated food or drink or by touching contaminated surfaces or objects then putting your hand in your mouth, according to the CDC.

This Quick Read was submitted by Dan Hounsell — dan.hounsell@tradepressmedia.com — editor-in-chief of Facility Maintenance Decisions, and chief editor of Facilitiesnet.com.

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