Norovirus in Restaurants

Norovirus in Restaurants: More Common than Cruise Ships

Though we tend to think of the norovirus as an illness one usually contracts on a cruise ship, the release of a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that you are actually far more likely to be contaminated by the bacteria in a restaurant.

The “cruise ship” reputation is well-earned. There was a passenger outbreak earlier this year, in which a group of them who were traveling on a Royal Caribbean ship were stricken with symptoms such as severe diarrhea and vomiting. And then, there was the infamous Carnival cruise incident in 2006, during which more than 600 passengers and crew members became sick with norovirus. But while those cases make for really great headlines and demand a lot of attention, the new CDC report notes that these huge cruise ship outbreaks make up about one percent of the 20 million cases of norovirus reported annually.

The CDC report says that 70 percent of norovirus outbreaks reported between 2009 and 2012 occurred as a result of direct person-to-person contact, while foodborne transmission accounted for 25 percent of outbreaks during that period, or just over 1,000.

Norovirus is far and away the most common foodborne pathogen out there, accounting for roughly half of all reported food-related outbreaks in the United States between 2009 and 2012. The CDC estimates that nearly 20 million people become sick from norovirus each year, with as many as 71,000 of them being hospitalized.

The report explains how these outbreaks have been happening. It turns out the virus is spreading largely because cooks, food handlers and servers in restaurants are passing it on to customers and other food handlers. According to the CDC, the typical scenario involves an infected food worker preparing and handling foods after cooking, and serving that food to a customer, who becomes sick. Norovirus can live for up to two weeks on counters and kitchen utensils like forks and spoons. While heating food to more than 140 degrees can kill the virus, the problem is, as noted, about 90 percent of contamination instances happen after cooking.

The CDC believes the food service industry could prevent more norovirus cases by enforcing hand-washing protocols, but they also point to the need to work with public health officials to create an environment in which infected food workers can stay home when they’re sick. Too often, food handlers and other workers feel compelled to come into work when they’re contagious.

If you or a loved one have been stricken with any sort of foodborne illness, including norovirus, please get medical help immediately, and then contact the knowledgeable Texas Food Poisoning Injury Lawyer at Hill Law Firm as soon as possible, to protect your rights.

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