Dozens of people fell ill following what health officials described as an apparent norovirus outbreak at an airport-area hotel over the weekend.

Officials first became aware of the issue at the Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel over the weekend, when an estimated 40 guests and 40 staff members got sick.

A representative of Vancouver Coastal Health told CTV News Vancouver the staff members included food handlers and cleaners.

There'd been a conference at the hotel on the weekend, so many people were at the venue at the time.

The VCH spokesperson said outbreaks of that size are not unheard of, but that the health authority is still waiting for official numbers.

All food and beverage facilities were closed, and a VCH environmental health officer was called to inspect the area. The hotel entrance was temporarily closed to the public and was cleaned.

VCH said a food handler who'd been at the Sheraton also worked at Cavu, a restaurant located in a nearby Hilton hotel. It appeared that two bartenders reported symptoms similar to those of norovirus at the Hilton Vancouver Airport Hotel.

The restaurant was also closed and cleaned as a precaution.

"Norovirus is a group of viruses that cause acute gastroenteritis, an infection of the digestive tract," the VCH spokesperson said.

Within one or two days of exposure, a patient could see symptoms including an upset stomach, vomiting and/or diarrhea. They may also experience cramping, chills and fever.

The illness typically lasts one to three days, VCH said.

Complications are possible if a person loses too many fluids.

Norovirus is found in vomit and diarrhea, and can spread to others through tiny droplets in the air. It can also be spread through surfaces including countertops and taps, especially if an infected person doesn't properly wash their hands.

It can survive for some time on surfaces that are not properly cleaned, and those who come in contact with it then put their hands or fingers in their mouth can fall ill.

If an infected person handles food, it can also spread to those who eat what they've prepared.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Spencer Harwood and Angela Jung