County officials in North Carolina are investigating an outbreak of foodborne illnesses linked to a sushi restaurant.

Patrons of Sushi Nine on Western Boulevard in Wake County reported illnesses with symptoms common to norovirus virus infection. The first case was reported on Nov. 30 and subsequent patients continue to be identified. As of Dec. 7 there are 31 people who have reported symptoms.

Local media are reporting that county investigators say it’s too early to tell what caused the virus. They are looking at food storage and preparation as well as norovirus.

“It is possible,” Ashley Whittington with Wake County Environmental Services told WRAL News. “Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea symptoms are in line with norovirus symptoms, and there’s always a concern, especially this time of year, that there was a customer or employee that was possibly shedding the virus and symptoms and that may have led to contamination on surfaces in the restaurant.”

At the urging of health officials, the restaurant closed on Dec. 5. It was allowed to reopen Dec. 7.

The county health officials said they received a complaint about the restaurant on Dec. 1 and got more complaints in the following days. This prompted county staff to recommend that the restaurant temporarily close.

Anyone who ate at Sushi Nine from Nov. 30 through Dec. 4 and got sick is asked to report that to the Wake County Communicable Disease Hotline at 919-257-4462.

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

People with norovirus infections can spread the infection quickly to others through food or personal contact. Also, the virus can live on surfaces for long periods.

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