updated 3/17/2004 12:17:09 PM ET 2004-03-17T17:17:09

Downtown hotels are stepping up sanitation efforts after the number of people who reported being sickened by a virus during visits over the past four months climbed past the 1,000 mark.

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Most of the people who reported catching the highly contagious Norwalk-like virus are Hawaii residents who stayed in Boyd Gaming Corp. hotels in downtown Las Vegas, officials said.

Clark County Health District spokesman Dave Tonelli said the good news is that there seems to be a decrease in the number of new cases, down to 74 for the week of March 5-12.

“The decline in the new cases is encouraging,” Tonelli said.

The Norwalk virus, or norovirus, can cause diarrhea, stomach pain and vomiting for 24 to 48 hours. The virus is spread through food and water and close contact with infected people or things they have touched. It has been known to afflict travelers on cruise ships.

Source not identified
The source of the Las Vegas outbreak hasn’t been identified, but most of the cases involved people who stayed or visited the California, Fremont and Main Street Station hotels. Boyd sells many Las Vegas packages to Hawaiians.

Boyd has since increased sanitation through its properties, including using hospital-grade disinfectants and cleaning public bathrooms hourly. Boyd has said some Hawaii customers have canceled their trips to Las Vegas since the news spread about the virus.

The total number of cases was 1,174 as of Monday.

Tonelli said he’s hopeful that the extra cleaning is paying off, but urged travelers to remain vigilant. “It is not uncommon in norovirus outbreaks for a decline to be followed by a resurgence,” he said.

Robert Silva, of Kaneohe, Hawaii, said he stayed at the California starting Feb. 25 and all seven in his party got the virus. Visitors should have been warned about the disease before arriving.

“We had no idea,” he said. “Nobody said anything.”

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