Illnesses among patrons of Coho Cafe in Issaquah, WA, spurred an investigation by public health officials, which is being reported on now.

Reports of sick people All had symptoms suggesting norovirus infection, according the Seattle & King County Public Health Department. The department could not find a specific food or drink item that could have been the cause of the outbreak, which included six people.

Symptoms reported by the sick people included vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and chills. No sick employees were identified at the restaurant.

“After the initial reports of illness, Environmental Health Investigators visited the restaurant on March 27, 2024. We directed restaurant management to do a thorough cleaning and disinfection because we suspected norovirus, a very common cause of gastrointestinal illness,” according to the report from the health department.

“During our visit, we observed an employee putting on gloves before washing their hands, a potential risk factor for spreading illness. We had the employee wash their hands and discussed proper hand washing with staff. We also provided further education about preventing the spread of norovirus. Prevention measures include proper handwashing, preventing bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods, and appropriate cleaning and disinfection.”

Health department staff revisited the restaurant on April 10 and found they had done appropriate cleaning and disinfection with correct handwashing practices in place.

The health department received another report of sick people after that and Environmental Health Investigators visited the restaurant again on April 24. All staff at the restaurant were interviewed about symptoms of illness. Health inspectors also required all remaining staff confirm to management that they were not sick before starting their next shift. We directed them to conduct a second round of deep cleaning and disinfection and helped update their staff illness policy to meet food code requirements.

The health department staff reviewed the restaurant’s practice for letting staff return to work after they are sick with gastrointestinal illness. Staff must wait at least 24 hours after symptoms stop before returning to work. When the illness might be norovirus, staff must wait at least 48 hours after symptoms stop before returning to work.

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