The norovirus, stomach flu, is now hitting the west coast after earlier Chipotle outbreak. Norovirus is the leading cause of adult gastroenteritis affecting nearly 21 million Americans annually, this according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The only other virus more common that norovirus is the common cold.
Norovirus is commonly transmitted through the consumption of contaminated food or water but it can be transmitted from person to person. In the U.S. nearly 50 percent of all outbreaks related to contaminated food or beverage are caused by norovirus. Common foods of contamination of the norovirus include lettuce, fresh fruits and shellfish but overall any raw food that becomes contaminated can transmit the illness when ingested.
Back in late 2015 Chipotle had an outbreak which wound up being confirmed as norovirus. After nearly 120 people became sick after eating at a Chipotle in Boston, health officials went in for testing and confirmed the cause – norovirus.
Earlier in 2015 Chipotle also had an E.coli outbreak which led many who got sick during this later outbreak believe that is what got to them. Based on symptoms of those who ate at Chipotle and patterns that experts identified they confirmed that the illness was not E.coli related but rather due to norovirus.
During inspection Chipotle was asked to temporarily close after officials found that chicken was being kept at too low of temperatures and that employees were working while clearly showing evidence of illness.
At a Seattle retirement home an outbreak of the norovirus left dozens of people sick. Residents of the home began to develop common norovirus symptoms including vomiting, nausea and diarrhea and some, due to age, had to be hospitalized.
After recommendations from health experts, facility members of the home immediately began to disinfect the entire building from wall to wall. Furthermore activity rooms are closed and meals are being delivered to each resident’s room. Residents are just trying to stay in their rooms as much as possible in order to avoid catching the illness.
With proper hand washing and cleaning of the residency, the home is expected to become a safe living haven once more.
We already mentioned the Chipotle Boston outbreak but the Chipotle California outbreak was much larger sickening over 490 people. When the Chipotle location was inspected health experts revealed it was far from being up to code. Not only was the location not following pest control, sanitation or maintenance, but employees were working without proper food handler cards which are valid in the state of California.
Restrooms were also found to be unkempt and poor repair. There was grease and debris around the frying areas as well as mildew and missing tiles. Food samples also revealed that food was being kept in unsafe temperatures and so it had to be discarded.
After three inspections more rules and policies were implemented like more stringent hand-washing policies and employees were not allowed to carry person devices on them near any cooking areas.
As mentioned norovirus can be transmitted from an infected person to a healthy person or by consuming contaminated food or beverages. Norovirus can develop over the course of 24 to 48 hours after the consumption of contaminated food. Symptoms are typically short-lived but can involve vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and nausea.
Diagnosis of norovirus consists of list of symptoms in accordance to the length of time symptoms are experienced and if there is the presence of a fever. During an outbreak health officials will collects samples in order to determine the cause of the outbreak – as seen in the Chipotle stories.
Treatment for norovirus is not specific and relies heavily on managing symptoms. Keeping yourself hydrated and limiting the types of food you consume is good practice if you are infected with norovirus. Replacement of electrolytes is also essential with vomiting or diarrhea and so drinking sports beverages is a simply way to do so.
Although you can’t 100 percent prevent norovirus when you eat out at restaurants, you can ensure when you cook at home you reduce your risk by storing food at the proper temperatures, washing your hands and not using the same utensils on different food items.