**Competing students sickened by virus
March 7, 2004 Fifty to 100 students participating in the NASA/Virginia Commonwealth University robotics competition were sickened in an outbreak of Norwalk virus infection.
The competition was Thursday through Saturday at VCU’s Siegel Center in Richmond. Between 2,500 and 3,000 students and adults from the United States and Canada attended, said Jeff Seaton, the NASA Langley Research Center official in charge of the competition.
The Norwalk virus - which has gotten publicity in recent years as the cruise ship virus - is a highly contagious gastrointestinal illness that causes vomiting and diarrhea.
The Richmond Public Health Department identified it as the cause of the illness but could not determine where it started, Seaton said.
Saturday, health officials visited with the 62 teams at the competition and gave them advice on hand-washing, using hand sanitizers and avoiding physical contact, to curtail spread of the infection.
Some students were unable to complete the competition because of illness. Some went to a hospital for treatment of symptoms, Seaton said.
Among the competitors were teams from the New Horizons Regional Education Center in Newport News and from Gloucester and Mathews counties.
Several New Horizons students became ill, Seaton said. He didn’t know if any of the Middle Peninsula students got sick.
WAVY-TV 10 contributed to this article.