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90 living in retirement home fall ill after meal

About 90 residents of University Village Retirement Center became ill this week after what health officials think may have been a tainted meal Sunday night.

Two residents were hospitalized and others reported nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, said Cindy Morris, environmental manager for the Hillsborough County Health Department. The outbreak, she said, is "very large."

Officials are trying to determine whether the widespread illness was caused by food contaminated with bacteria or a virus. It is less likely that the illness was airborne, Morris said, because so many people complained at once they were feeling sick.

Tim Parker, executive director of the north Tampa retirement home at 12401 N 22nd St., said health officials were contacted Tuesday afternoon.

"On Monday morning, it was reported that several people were ill. By Tuesday morning, we had an additional group of people reporting ill to the point where we were concerned about it," he said.

Morris said the symptoms were consistent with the Norwalk virus, which is transmitted through food. The virus broke out at a Hillsborough County nursing home in 1995, causing illness in 76 people. Norwalk virus can take up to 72 hours before inducing symptoms, which can last up to six days, Morris said.

Meal preparation is done in-house at University Village, which has 550 residents, Parker said. Health officials are taking food samples from the retirement home and requesting residents fill out questionnaires in the investigation. Those who are ill are being isolated, Morris said.