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Recent norovirus outbreak tied to local eatery

Aug 23, 2013 - Staff

The Wyoming Department of Health reports that a recent outbreak of norovirus in Fremont County was associated with Svilar's Bar and Dining Room in Hudson.

Specifically, health officials said employees at Svilar's may have been working in food-handling areas while experiencing symptoms of the gastrointestinal illness.

According to the WDH report, at least 26 people became ill after eating at Svilar's on May 4. WDH surveillance epidemiologist Reggie McClinton said each person experienced "severe vomiting and diarrhea" combined with stomach cramping and other symptoms.

Employees

Three Svilar's employees reportedly said they were ill between April 20 and May 11, with one employee in particular reporting gastrointestinal illness within two weeks before May 4.

"The employee reported nausea and diarrhea that lasted several days," the WDH report states. "The employee also reported working at the establishment while symptomatic."

The report says the presence of ill or previously ill employees in food-handling areas of the restaurant was possibly an important contributing factor in this outbreak.

The other two employees reportedly got sick after the outbreak, on May 6 and May 7. One of the employees reportedly worked while ill, and another came to work 48 hours after his or her last incidence of vomiting.

Recommendations

Based on the Wyoming Food Safety Rule, the WDH has recommended that Svilar's not allow any food-handling staff to work for 48 hours after experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea or vomiting.

"The 48-hour recommendation is the minimum," the report states. "Many foodborne pathogens, including norovirus, can be shed by previously-ill persons for longer than 48 hours."

In addition, food-handling employees must report to the person in charge regarding their health and activities related to diseases that are transmissible through food.

Foods

Several food items also were statistically associated with the norovirus outbreak: shrimp, ice and ice cream. The WDH report states noroviruses are commonly transmitted in unheated or cold foods, and the virus is resistant to quick steaming processes often used for cooking shellfish.

To minimize bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods like lettuce and other cold items, the WDH suggested the restaurant require the use of gloves when handling those foods.

"Please note that glove use does not negate the need for proper hand-washing," the report states.

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