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Nearly 200 sick at cheerleading competition

By Msnbc.com staff and wire

Nearly 200 people reported getting sick after attending the Salute to Spirit and State Cheerleading Championships at the Comcast Arena in Everett, Wash., last weekend, according to KING 5 News.

Washington state health officials said they were investigating and that people who'd attended the weekend high school cheerleading competition began reporting vomiting or diarrhea on Sunday and Monday.

"At least 19 squads are reporting high numbers of illnesses," Kate Lynch, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Health, told Reuters. She said 1,200 cheerleaders from 45 high schools participated in the event about 30 miles northeast of Seattle.

Health officials said they learned of the outbreak, which has flu-like symptoms similar to those found in the illnesses norovirus, rotavirus or a food-borne illness, on Tuesday.

More than 3,000 people attended the event, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association said in a statement. "Our immediate concerns are for those who have been affected by this illness and our thoughts are with them," Mike Colbrese, the association's executive director, said in a statement.

Cheerleaders at Seattle's Ballard High School said nearly half their squad became sick.

Ballard cheerleader Summer Gnoinski told KING 5, "I threw up every hour on the hour." Her sister, Karly, who did not get sick, calls herself "one of the lucky ones."

Assistant cheerleading coach Michelle Whelan says until they know what's going on, she's taking extra precautions. "I'm not letting the girls use pom-poms, signs, flags or anything else that was at the competition until we can disinfect them."