During a Norovirus outbreak in Blackford County that sickened 90 residents from January 5 through January 8 of this year, workers at a Hartford City Subway continued to report to their jobs despite displaying symptoms of Norovirus infection, including nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.
The fact that sick Subway workers had served customers during the outbreak was noted by the Blackford County Health Department in a report dated February 7, but this information was not revealed until Tuesday when the Muncie Star Press obtained a copy of the document, which concluded that “Subway was a contributing factor to the spread of Norovirus in Blackford County.”
Of the 90 known outbreak victims, 74 were questioned for this investigation. Of these people, 72 reported having eaten at Subway before becoming ill. Subway restaurant was the only common food source identified. Stool samples from 6 employees and 5 customers at the Subway location tested positive for Norovirus.
While the Blackford County Health Department announced in February that the outbreak was likely linked to Subway, it did not reveal that sick employees had worked during that time.
“Four Subway employees were sick with nausea, diarrhea and /or vomiting on Saturday, Jan. 7,” says the report. “Most employees self reported to co-workers that employees worked while sick.”
Indiana health code requires that food workers diagnosed with foodborne illnesses including Salmonella, E. coli, Shigella, Hepatitis A or Norovirus infections do not come to work. The code – adopted in 2000 and put into practice in 2008 – stipulates that food establishment employees must be familiar with foodborne illness symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, jaundice, sore throat and fever.
County health officials noted in February that they didn’t know how Norovirus had entered the restaurant, and that it may have come from a sick customer who spread the virus after failing to properly wash his or her hands after using the restroom.
Norovirus is transmitted through feces and causes infection when ingested by humans.© Food Safety News