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Food Sanitation Measures Encouraged 

RALEIGH – State health officials again caution North Carolinians about food-borne illness this holiday season, following three confirmed norovirus outbreaks that sickened more than 50 people and affected at least nine counties. Noroviruses are a group of viruses that cause the ‘stomach flu’ or gastroenteritis, and cannot be seen or tasted but spread easily from person to person.
“More than a million North Carolinians experience a norovirus-related illness each year,” said State Health Director Leah Devlin. “Food is a major part of the holidays for many people, and I want to remind everyone of steps they can take to prepare, serve and enjoy the food more safely during this season.
“As always, it is most important to thoroughly wash your hands before preparing, serving or handling food. If you are sick with nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, stay home and leave food preparation and serving to others while you are ill and for three days afterwards.”  Devlin listed a few simple measures people can take to prevent the spread of norovirus-related illness:
  • Frequently wash your hands, especially after toilet visits and changing diapers and before eating or preparing food.
  • Carefully wash ready-to-eat foods, such as fruits and vegetables.
  • Thoroughly clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces immediately after an episode of illness by using a bleach-based household cleaner.
  • After an episode of illness, immediately remove and wash, with hot water and soap, all clothing or linens that may be contaminated with the virus.
People who are infected with norovirus should not handle, prepare or serve food while they have symptoms and for three days after they recover from their illness. Food that may have been contaminated by an ill person should be placed in a trash container in a securely closed plastic bag. Terry Pierce, director of the Division of Environmental Health, added that those who employ caterers for their holiday parties – either in the personal or business environment – need to make sure the caterers are properly permitted or licensed.  One of the outbreaks that affected numerous counties has been linked to a caterer operating illegally from her home in the western Piedmont region of North Carolina.Noroviruses are a group of very contagious viruses found in an infected person’s stool or vomit that causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and some stomach cramping. Illness caused by norovirus infection can be called the stomach flu (unrelated to the flu or influenza), viral or acute gastroenteritis and food poisoning. People can become infected with the virus in several ways, including:
  • eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus;
  • touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus, and then placing their hand in their mouth;
  • having direct contact with another person who is infected.  
While the most common symptoms include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, additional symptoms may include a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and a general sense of tiredness. Children tend to experience more vomiting than adults. 

The illness often begins suddenly, usually about 24 to 48 hours after ingestion of the virus, and the infected person may feel very sick. In most people, symptoms last for about one to two days. People infected with norovirus are contagious from the moment they begin feeling ill to at least three days after recovery, with some remaining contagious as long as two weeks after recovery.

 

If you develop symptoms of food-borne illness, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or fever, contact your health care provider or local health department. For more information on norovirus illness, contact the Haywood County Health Department at 828-452-6675 or visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention online at: www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/revb/gastro/norovirus-qa.htm.