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Dozens sickened at Washington state cheerleading competition

By Laura Myers

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Washington state health officials said on Tuesday they were investigating a possible intestinal illness outbreak that hit hundreds of people at a weekend high school cheerleading competition.

The illness struck people who attended the Salute to Spirit and State Cheerleading Championships at the Comcast Arena in Everett on Saturday, the Washington State Department of Health said in a statement.

Health officials said they did not know how many people were sickened but said those who came down with the illness began reporting vomiting or diarrhea on Sunday and Monday.

"At least 19 squads are reporting high numbers of illnesses," said Kate Lynch, a spokeswoman for the state health agency. 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.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb, Mary Slosson and Cynthia Johnston)

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