Norovirus made news in January when it turned the Royal Caribbean Liner into a floating isle of disease. However this is only 1% of the reported cases as per data released by CDC. One in every 15 US citizens regardless of where he is gets sick by the virus each year.
Norovirus is very virulent and is spread by person to person contact and is also one of the hospital acquired diseases. However the CDC is focusing more on food borne transmission since it is a major route which infects a large number of persons. Norovirus is a major cause of food borne ailments.
CDC director Tom Frieden told reporters during a conference call, “The food service industry has a crucial role to play in preventing Norovirus outbreaks in contaminated food.”
The virus is a very hardy creature and can survive freezing temperatures or heat up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. It resists almost all the major disinfectants and could survive on the surface for two weeks or even longer. The cost of treating the infections is enormous and adds up to an estimated $777 million per year. The virus is very virulent and exposure to as low as 18 particles can make you sick. So the amount of virus which can be accommodated on the head of a pin can sicken 1000 persons.
The transmission of the virus occurs mainly through the oral fecal route. The best method to prevent the spread of the infection is to maintain hygiene in restaurant kitchens. Other measures which are suggested by the CDC includes better hand washing, making sick workers stay home, and having kitchens overseen by managers who are certified in food safety, which has been shown to reduce outbreaks.
According to CDC there are instances where hotel workers have worked while they were ill with vomiting and diarrhea. Restaurant workers are often paid less and cannot avail sick leaves. So whenever there is a worker in a restaurant who is ill, he puts at risk all the diners and the co workers at risk.
CDC recommends that any ailing worker must not join duty for at least 48 hours after the symptoms have stopped. Of course there is commercial consideration for paid sick leaves but when you add up the cost of the treatment of Norovirus infection, it is very small.