A norovirus outbreak originating from a California restaurant has sickened about 100 people, according to the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department.

Jessie Burmester, an epidemiologist from the health department, told KSBY news that 97 cases have been confirmed in connection with the outbreak earlier this month. While Burmester did not disclose the name of the restaurant involved, she revealed that the investigations consistently pointed to the same establishment.

“Our primary objective during investigations is to identify a common source or exposure point,” Burmester said. “Thus far, all individuals reporting illness have consistently provided the name of the restaurant.”

On May 15, the Public Health Department officially declared an outbreak after receiving more than two reports of the same exposure source. Further investigations indicated that some affected individuals began experiencing symptoms as early as May 11.

Upon identifying the outbreak, the Public Health Department took action to prevent further spread of the norovirus. They required the restaurant to initiate intensive cleaning and disinfection measures and launched an investigation to determine the source of the illnesses, according to Burmester.

Burmester provided some insight into the prevalence of norovirus outbreaks in California. “In California alone, we witness around 2,500 norovirus outbreaks every year.”

The San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department urges individuals who suspect they may have contracted norovirus to seek medical attention and report their illness to local public health departments. Furthermore, they emphasize the importance of taking necessary precautions to minimize the risk of infection, especially in settings where food is prepared and consumed.

Symptoms of norovirus infection may include severe vomiting and/or diarrhea, nausea, muscle aches, fever, and headache, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms typically start 12 to 48 hours after exposure and can last for one to three days. Most people recover without treatment, however, some may need medical attention for dehydration.

Norovirus is highly contagious and infected people can spread the infection easily to others. The virus can live on surfaces for long periods of time. Droplets in the air from the vomiting of infected people can also spread the virus to people and contaminate surfaces.

To prevent others from getting sick always wash hands carefully with soap and warm water after using the bathroom, changing diapers or caring for potentially infected people. Use soap and water to clean toilets or other areas that may be soiled with feces or vomit. 

Wash soiled clothing and bedding in hot water and detergent. Soft surfaces that cannot be laundered can be steam cleaned.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here)