I don’t talk about norovirus much on the pages of my blog despite the fact that norovirus is estimated to cause 23 million cases of acute gastroenteritis (commonly called the "stomach flu") in the U.S. each year, and are the leading cause of gastroenteritis. Of viruses, only the common cold is reported more often than viral gastroenteritis (norovirus). Norovirus may cause more outbreaks of foodborne illness than all bacteria and parasites. They can cause extended outbreaks because of their high infectivity, persistence in the environment, resistance to common disinfectants, and difficulty in controlling their transmission through routine sanitary measures. I was therefore glad to see the Orlando Sentinel’s report on "83 guests suffer norovirus outbreak at Palm Beach resort."
Florida Health officials identified the highly contagious norovirus as the cause of an outbreak that sickened at least 83 people at the Hilton Singer Island Resort. Health officials were called in after three people were hospitalized. Test results confirm that the outbreak was norovirus, a highly contagious virus that causes diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, cramps and other symptoms, officials said.
"It spreads easily and quickly," said Tim O’Connor, spokesman for the Palm Beach County Health Department. "We’ve asked (the hotel) to completely disinfect everything." The hotel shut down its kitchen Saturday, threw out food and cleaned, so health officials are unable to determine whether the virus outbreak began in the restaurant. "We didn’t know what we were looking at," said hotel manager Stan Turner. "If it is food-borne, you know that it’s this plate, this salad. But if it’s norovirus, it comes from everywhere, so that’s unnerving. "The hotel restaurant reopened after staff cleaned the entire property, Turner said. "It has been a floor-by-floor, room-by-room, surface-by-surface process," he said. "We are not resting. We are still cleaning." The hotel restaurant was cited for more than a dozen violations during a December state inspection, but the report noted there was no "immediate threat to the public."
We have taken on several hundred cases of norovirus-caused illnesses over the years. However, showing how the virus is transmitted is hard. Was it foodborne? Was it an ill worker? Ill patron?
The Missoulian newspaper also reported on the spread of norovirus in the Montana local schools:
It hits fast and hard, and can spread like the latest Britney Spears story. Its symptoms aren’t something you want to read about over breakfast.
Health officials Friday stressed the following ways to prevent norovirus infection:
1. Stay at home and away from others if you are ill, and for at least two days after you start feeling better. Food workers should stay home 72 hours.
2. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water. “Sing happy birthday,” one expert said. “That’s about how long you should scrub.” Alcohol-based sanitizers are not effective against norovirus.
3. Clean all possibly contaminated surfaces with a chlorine bleach solution. Use 1/3 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water for non-porous surfaces (toilets, sinks, countertops). Use 1 2/3 cups of bleach in 1 gallon of water for wooden floors and other surfaces that could absorb vomit splatters.
And, it even ruins weddings – Iowa Couple Sues Restaurant After Rehearsal Dinner Sickens Wedding Party – A central Iowa couple is suing the restaurant where they held their rehearsal dinner the night before their November 2006 wedding. A Polk County Health Department investigation concluded the man who prepared the salad served at dinner that night had stomach flu. The official cause was determined to be norovirus. A total of 71 people became sick. Restaurant owner Paul Trostel said his insurance company has settled with many of the customers who fell ill.
"I feel very terrible about this situation that happened once in 20 years," he said. "It could have happened to any restaurant, but unfortunately it happened at the Greenbriar."