Norovirus Outbreak Linked To North Carolina Sushi Restaurant, 241 Ill

Food & Drink

Here are two words that you don’t want to hear together: norovirus and sushi. Actually, there are very few things that you want to hear along with norovirus. But a norovirus outbreak has been linked to the Sushi Nine restaurant in Raleigh, North Carolina, according Shelle Jackon reporting for WRAL News. And way more than nine people have been affected. So far, at least 241 people have complained of suffering symptoms that would be consistent with norovirus illness.

Each of these people had been to Sushi Nine at some point from November 28 through December 5 and then subsequently registered complaints about feeling ill. Many of these diners have not yet been formally tested for norovirus so it is not completely clear whether all indeed were infected with the virus, as the following NBC News report explained:

Before you assume that something fishy was going on, NBC News reporter David K. Li did quote Mac Schreiber, the manager of Sushi Nine, as saying, “We’re pretty confident that it wasn’t the food. We have a reasonable belief that a customer with norovirus dined in the restaurant a few days prior.” If someone infectious with norovirus had visited, it is very possible that the person ended up spreading the virus throughout different parts of the restaurant.

The virus is most often transmitted through the fecal-oral route, which is a refined way of saying poop-to-mouth. When a person is infected with norovirus, the virus can multiply in that person’s gastrointestinal tract and then come out via both ends of that tract: vomit through the pie hole or poop from you know where. Now when that person doesn’t wash his or her hands thoroughly after going number two in the bathroom, take a wild guess as to what may be on that person’s hands afterwards. Even if that person does wash his or her hands, standard soap and water may not be strong enough to remove the norovirus. As a result, every surface, every piece of food and every type of drink touched by that person could end up getting contaminated with norovirus.

Norovirus is highly contagious too. Even as few as 18 virus particles can cause illness. Combine that with the fact that someone infected with norovirus can end up shedding billions of virus particles over the course of that person’s infection. This shedding can even continue for up to weeks after symptoms have resolved and the person “feels fine.” Therefore, you can see how just a single infected person can start an outbreak that eventually leaves over 200 other people infected.

And having a norovirus infection is no walk in the park, unless your idea of a walk in the park is having bad—potentially projectile—vomiting, and bad—potentially explosive—diarrhea. Norovirus gastroenteritis is like gastroenteritis with the Infinity Gauntlet. All of the symptoms, including nausea, stomach pain, and possibly a fever, can be much worse than your typical, run-of-the-mill gastroenteritis. If you are not careful and keep replenishing your fluids, you could end up quite dehydrated, which could land you in the hospital.

Since norovirus is so contagious and resistant to many standard cleaning supplies, once norovirus has been identified in an area, you’ve got go deep, as in deeply cleaning the area. Sushi Nine did voluntarily shut down its operations on December 5 in order to conduct a “deep cleaning,” which should have included lots of bleach or some other environmental protection agency (EPA)-registered disinfecting product against norovirus. The restaurant did manage to reopen three days later and is now back to advertising cheesecake and hand rolls on its Facebook site.

Keep in mind that the current reported total of 241 cases may not represent the full extent of the outbreak. Some people infected with norovirus may not even experience any symptoms but are still able to pass along the virus. Plus, not everyone with symptoms will be eager to report them and say something like, “Over here, over here. I am now having explosive diarrhea.”

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