Suspected norovirus outbreak closes Wahaca
The Mexican restaurant chain, Wahaca, shut nine of its restaurants after more than 300 staff and customers became ill. Although most of the restaurants have now re-opened, the company is working with Public Health England to find the source of the outbreak.
Thomasina Meirs (Founder and 2015 MasterChef Winner) said in a statement â€œLast week a number of our staff and customers were struck down by what is suspected to be the winter vomiting bug, norovirusâ€.
For more information: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-37857215
SOME FACTS ABOUT NOROVIRUS
- Norovirus is the commonest cause of sickness and diarrhoea in the UK.
- Although most cases involve person to person spread, it can be food borne.
- Norovirus should be suspected if:
- The duration of the illness is between 12-60 hours
- Symptoms include vomiting (usually projectile) and some diarrhoea.
- Other symptoms can be nausea, abdominal pains, fever, headache and aches and pains.
- It has a 45% attack rate and only 10-100 viral particles are needed to cause illness therefore it is very infectious.
- The onset time of symptoms is 10-50 hours (usually 24-48 hours)
- Norovirus particles need to be ingested and this can occur in several ways:
- Air-borne vomit or diarrhoea particles e.g. If someone is sick other people coming into the room can breathe these in.
- Contact surfaces e.g. If someone touches a contaminated surface and then eats or prepares food for someone else (contaminated fingers can transfer norovirus to up to seven clean surfaces)
- Contaminated foods e.g. shellfish harvested from sewage contaminated waters (75% of UK oysters are believed to contain norovirus)
- Infected staff e.g. returning to work too soon after being ill or not realising they are ill (5% of sufferers do not have symptoms)
- Contaminated water e.g. swallowing swimming pool water
- Sufferers will continue to shed viral particles in high numbers for 48 hours after they no longer have symptoms and at small numbers thereafter.
- Norovirus is easily destroyed by cooking and not destroyed by freezing.
TIPS TO PREVENT AN OUTBREAK
- Remind staff of the importance of reporting any illness they have or have had in the last three days to their manager.
- Any staff with symptoms must be sent home and advised to drink plenty of water and if necessary take paracetamol for any pain.
- Establish which areas they have been in and disinfect any surfaces they may have touched.
- Establish if they have vomited or used the toilet on the premises. If so, isolate the area until all surfaces have been disinfected and the area ventilated for at least 4 hours.
- Discard any foods that they may have handled.
- They can return to work when they have been symptom-free for 48 hours. If they have taken anti-diarrhoeal drugs (e.g. Imodium) this must also be at least 48 hours after taking the last dose.
Customer or staff vomiting (or worse!) accidents
- Remove the ill person to a more suitable area e.g. staff facilities, customer toilets. Call a First Aider or team member to take care of the person.
- Isolate the area immediately. If the incident occurred front of house or in the kitchen, this may require the closure of the operation. Re-seat customers if necessary.
- Open external doors and windows to improve air circulation
- Use non-catering personnel to clean up the spillage and remove any contaminated food and crockery. Catering staff members should not clean up or touch any contaminated items.
- Staff members who may have been contaminated should remove their protective clothing, bag up and label as ‘hazardous’. They should wash their hands and arms thoroughly.
- Remove and discard any unopened food that may have been contaminated. Any bottled or canned foods must be dipped in a sanitising solution.
- Crockery, equipment and cutlery must be sanitized away from the kitchen by non-catering team members and may be returned after sanitizing to be put through the dishwasher.
- Keep the area out of use until it has been disinfected using a suitable bleach based disinfectant on cleansable surfaces. Other liquid disinfectants and/or steam cleaning should be considered on soft furnishings and carpets. In some cases, destroying the furniture may be the best way to eliminate germs such as norovirus.
- Dispose of any protective clothing and cloths that have been used for wiping up â€“ put in a bin sack and put outside. Do not put in the kitchen bin.
- Norovirus spread from infected food handlers on to any food can cause illness as it does not grow in the food but merely uses it as a vehicle. Therefore, any food could be contaminated so it is essential that you use reputable suppliers.
- There have been outbreaks associated with oysters and mussels that have been harvested from sewage contaminated waters.
- There are also increasing numbers of outbreaks associated with fresh and frozen ready to eat produce that have been grown in contaminated land or washed with contaminated water.
Safer Food Scores Complete Compliance Contracts include assisting clients with food poisoning allegations and managing outbreaks.
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