Prevention of norovirus taken seriously at Suncoast restaurant

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- In the U.S., most outbreaks of norovirus from contaminated food happen in food service settings -- primarily in restaurants -- according to a new vital signs report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Now the curse of cruise ships may come to be known as your restaurant’s risk.

James Sullivan, more commonly known as Sully, has been in the restaurant business 29 years. “I'll sell 700-800 burgers just on Monday nights, so that's quite a few.”

His Sarasota eatery, Patrick’s 1481, is busy. “And not everybody just eats burgers, so there's a thousand people coming through the door on Monday.”

With those numbers, he says safety and health standards are followed closely. “Washing our fruit before we cut it, and always using gloves.”

Now a CDC report finds restaurants, not cruise ships, lead in numbers of people contracting the foodborne disease.

“One reason could be, more people might eat at restaurants than are able to cruise on ships, so there's inherently more risk.” This is how norovirus is passed on, says Michael Drennon, epidemiologist of the Department of Health in Sarasota. “Norovirus is spread from person to person through the fecal oral route, so the organism is spread in feces, shed in feces.”

A sick individual preparing food for others may cause contamination in a restaurant. “It's not necessarily the food itself that's causing them to be sick, it's the organism that the sick individual places on the food.”

Infected food workers are responsible for about 70% of reported norovirus outbreaks from contaminated food. “Individuals who are not washing their hands or touching their mouth or face after using the restroom or shaking hands with someone else is how it spreads.”

To this day, Sully knows of no one contracting norovirus at his establishment. “At Patrick's? No, never.”

Heat above 140 degrees kills the virus. “We just watch our standards; we make sure that it's all the temperature we need it to be.”

Barriers protect food during preparation. “Latex gloves are huge.”

But most frustrating about the disease, says Drennon, is the difficulty in controlling it. “Hundreds of thousands of organisms may be shed in a single stool, bowel movement, where it may take only eighteen organisms to make someone sick.”

You can get the norovirus in any type of facility; it doesn’t have to be necessarily a restaurant or a cruise ship. And your best protection is hand washing and making sure people handling your food or in close contact with you are doing the same.Preventing norovirus taken