At least 280 people who ate at the 42nd St. Oyster Bar in downtown Raleigh, NC became ill with norovirus in November and December of 2009 according to the Wake County Environmental Health and Safety director, Andre Pierce.
At least three patrons of the restaurant tested positive for norovirus, a foodborne illness that causes severe vomiting and diarrhea and can lead to dehydration. Wake County health officials are continuing their investigation into the outbreak to determine how the virus spread within the restaurant.
“A very small dose of norovirus is easily transmitted among groups of people. So it could have been brought in by a patron. It could possibly be a food handler who was sick. But in general, it’s very difficult to pinpoint the source of a norovirus,” Pierce said.
Brad Hurley, owner of the 42nd Street Oyster Bar, stopped serving Louisiana oysters and started serving only oysters from North Carolina after the outbreak. Tests conducted on the Louisiana oysters came back negative for norovirus contamination.
“Norovirus is probably one of the most unreported food illnesses out there. It’s hard to detect. It’s hard to find a source. We spend a lot of time and resources trying to track it down. And it is frustrating to us and it is frustrating to the public that you can’t just put a finger on it, but it is very present and I think it’s a lot more out there than we realize,” Pierce added.
WRAL reported that 18 of 300 people who attended a private party at the Angus Barn in Raleigh contracted norovirus on Dec. 19.
In addition to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, individuals with norivirus may suffer from headache and low-grade fever.
The illness caused by norovirus is usually brief, developing 24 to 48 hours after contaminated food or water is ingested and lasting for 24 to 60 hours. People infected with norovirus usually recover in two to three days without serious or long-term health effects.
In some cases, severe dehydration, malnutrition, and even death can result from norovirus infection, especially among children and among older and immunocompromised adults in hospitals and nursing homes.