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PILLGRIMAGE; Visitors to Lourdes are struck by vomiting bug.

Byline: BY SARAH BARDON

PEOPLE are getting sick in Lourdes, it was claimed yesterday.

Pilgrim Mary Byrne from Cork made the claim on RTE's Liveline after her pilgrimage to France was ruined when half of her group were struck down with the vomiting bug.

Millions of people visit Lourdes every year in the hope of physical or spiritual healing.

The 40-year-old stayed at the Agena Hotel with 150 other Irish people. She estimates 75 of them were hit with the illness.

Mary said: "We arrived at the hotel and we heard this announcement saying, 'Make sure you wash your hands after you use the toilet and be thorough because there is a vomiting bug doing the rounds'.

"We got in a frenzy, I literally went weak and got into a bit of a panic. The next morning we were having breakfast and someone at the next table was saying their friends were getting sick.

"That was the same story every day, another two or three people getting sick."

Mary is furious nobody informed her of the bug before she travelled.

She said: "I would like to have the option of staying home or going out anyway.

"If the travel agent highlighted the problem, we could have made up our own mind. There are vulnerable people going to Lourdes - the old, the sick and their immune system is pretty much shot."

Fionnuala Walsh of Joe Walsh Tours said the vomiting bug had been in Lourdes since September 23.

She added: "It is a viral infection which is contracted through the air.

"But it only lasts 24 hours, I know it can be quite upsetting but it is lost in 24 hours and there are no side effects apart from vomiting and diarrhoea - as long as sufferers don't become dehydrated.

"The message we got from the GP which we passed onto our customers was simple, drink plenty and don't touch dairy foods."

Mary added: "We had a good time but it just wasn't worth it. The whole time we were worrying, 'Which one of us is going to get it today'."

There are vulnerable people going to Lourdes - the old, the sick and their immune system is pretty much shot PILGRIM MARY BYRNE

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 10, 2008
Words:378
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