Pennsylvania Venue Releases Statement Following Reports of Mad Tea Party Jam Illnesses

The Four Quarters Interfaith Sanctuary released a statement via e-mail after reports of illnesses at the venue caused concern to attendees of two festivals.  Over the course of two weekends, a multitude of symptoms were reported from patrons, staff, volunteers and musicians during the Mad Tea Party Jam and the WickerMan Burn.

Anyone suffering symptoms associated with viral gastroenteritis (stomach flu) are encouraged to contact the Pennsylvania Department of Health.  The venue is working with local health officials to collect accurate data. Organizers of both events as well as the venue are hoping this data can help further explain what happened and why some some attendees became ill.

To our Visitors and Friends

Recently we have suffered at Four Quarters outbreaks of a very contagious Viral GI illness that is following the pattern of the 2008 season outbreaks. We have been in contact with our public health officials about Viral GI prior to the outbreak at The Mad Tea Party and have been in continuous contact since Sunday morning, June 18th. We have been forwarding contact information, hospital information, test reports and samples directly to the PA Epidemiological Dept, and will be meeting with them on site shortly.

We have confirmed with some public health officials that this is a “hot” season for Viral GI with outbreaks emerging. It is our own opinion that we are experiencing a very contagious variant this season with one day incubation times, less than 24 hour mean duration and high transmissiblity through surfaces.

We have confirmed ill parties arriving on site and passed this information forward, while protecting identities of individuals and venues involved. It is important to remember that the virus can travel through casual contact with surfaces and does not reflect on the personal habits of the persons afflicted; in fact, for the virus to survive every person casually infected must, on average, infect another person.

In working with the PA Health Dept after our experience with Viral GI in 2008, we put into place policies and improvements under their recommendation. We believe these policies prevented a much wider outbreak at Mad Tea Party.
* We quarantine campers and campsites that display symptoms of any kind of GI distress, until it is known they are not infectious, and we supply these camps with chlorine wash-down supplies. We track arrival times, travel histories and first symptoms of cases reported to us.
* We educate through signage and publications about the nature of Viral GI. Much of our staff has passed Safe-Serve educational certification.
* During high risk events we continuously clean and chlorine wash-down all potties, water spigots, hand-wash stations and smooth public surfaces many times during the day.
* Our water supply is tested and licensed with daily chlorine readings and monthly sampling. We volunteered for this highest level of testing.
* Food vendors are safe-serve certified and are Health Dept. inspected prior to events. Our own kitchen is licensed to the commercial level with safe-serve certified staff.

This announcement is intended to answer in small part some of your concerns. Please understand that science takes time and we are currently focused on supplying the raw data that will allow the experts to identify and understand what may be an especially contagious variant. If you have information to share do call PA HEALTH at 717-787-3350. As you travel and attend events, be very aware of the increased risk factors for Viral GI and practice good hygiene in it’s prevention, with Wikipedia @ Norovirus a good reference. As we receive information back from the science community we will pass it on to you.

In closing we wish to express our sympathy and concern to those people who have experienced this contagion, and our appreciation to those who have shared with us their medical histories. Our praise for the outstanding work of EMS and sanitation staff who went far beyond the call of 16 hour shifts to treat patients and keep the facilities clean. And our thanks to the very many people whose recent messages of support and appreciation for our work, has made that work worthwhile.

Orren Whiddon
Four Quarters InterFaith

Anyone who attended festivals over the past two weekends are encouraged to disinfect supplies, wash clothing, and seek medical attention if symptoms worsen.  According to the Center for Disease Control, the virus that causes Viral GI may be present in vomit and stools both before and after symptoms are present. Proper hand hygiene is the best way to prevent infecting others.

NYS Music will continue to update this story as it develops.