Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) has confirmed norovirus as the cause of an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness associated with Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches restaurant in Garden City, Kan. Norovirus was detected by the Kansas Health and Environmental Laboratories at KDHE in clinical specimens from three people associated with the outbreak.

KDHE has been working closely with the Finney County Health Department and the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA) to investigate this outbreak since it was first reported on Dec. 18, 2013. In addition to laboratory testing, the Finney County Health Department and KDHE have been contacting diners by telephone and an online survey to determine the scope and extent of the outbreak. As of Jan. 3 at 4 p.m., 282 people had reported becoming ill with gastrointestinal symptoms after eating at the restaurant from Dec. 10-24, 2013. Of those, 209 people were ill within 10 to 72 hours of eating with symptoms consistent with norovirus (vomiting and/or diarrhea).

The restaurant was inspected by KDA on Dec. 18 and again on Dec. 24. The restaurant voluntarily closed from Dec. 24 through Dec. 26 to conduct a special cleaning and disinfection procedure. No new cases of illness among patrons have been reported since the restaurant reopened on Dec. 27. The restaurant fully cooperated with KDA, KDHE and the county health department during the entire investigation.

Norovirus typically causes gastrointestinal illness – such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea and low-grade fever – and is easily passed from person to person or through food that has been contaminated during preparation. It often causes large outbreaks, affecting a large percentage of people who were exposed.

The best way to prevent norovirus is proper hand washing, excluding ill persons from preparing food, and proper cleaning and sanitizing of food preparation areas.