Preventing norovirus infections, food service has a key role
About 20 million people get sick from norovirus each year, most from close contact with infected people or by eating contaminated food. Norovirus is the leading cause of disease outbreaks from contaminated food in the US. Infected food workers cause about 70% of reported norovirus outbreaks from contaminated food.
Norovirus often gets attention for outbreaks on cruise ships, but those account for only about 1% of all reported norovirus outbreaks. Norovirus is very contagious, and outbreaks can occur anywhere people gather or food is served. People with norovirus usually vomit and have diarrhea. Some may need to be hospitalized and can even die. Infected people can spread norovirus to others through close contact or by contaminating food and surfaces. Food service workers who have norovirus can contaminate food and make many people sick. In norovirus outbreaks for which investigators reported the source of contamination, 70% are caused by infected food workers.
The food service industry can help prevent norovirus outbreaks by:
- Making sure that food service workers practice proper hand washing and avoid touching ready-to- eat foods, such as raw fruits and vegetables, with their bare hands before serving them.
- Certifying kitchen managers and training food service workers in food safety practices.
- Requiring sick food workers to stay home, and considering use of paid sick leave and on-call staffing, to support compliance.
Many Ships are trying to protect their passengers by using hand sanitizer. This is ineffective on norovirus It should be killed by washing with soap and water.