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| Coral Beach, Food Safety News – Human transmission of norovirus is likely what made dozens, possibly hundreds, of people in Transylvania County, NC, sick in an outbreak among customers of a McDonald’s restaurant.

Samples collected from patients by their health care providers tested positive for norovirus. Those results were confirmed by the North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health, according to the Transylvania County Public Health Department.

“Based on our current evidence, we believe it was due to human contamination rather than any one particular food or drink item,” Tara Rybka, public health educator with the county, told Food Safety News.

Rybka did not specifically say whether the person or people responsible for the contamination are employees at the restaurant. People can spread the virus to others and contaminate foods and other items before they begin to feel symptoms.

The highly contagious norovirus is difficult to kill with sanitizers and can easily contaminate foods, beverages, surfaces such as counters, food containers and utensils. The virus can live on surfaces for long periods of time.

Health care providers reported more than 70 cases of suspected foodborne illnesses to the county this past week. More than 200 other people called the health department themselves to report severe nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Many of the sick people reported having consumed food and or beverages from a McDonald’s restaurant in Brevard, NC, on Asheville Highway.

Public health officials say there is no evidence that the outbreak in Transylvania County is related to the ongoing nationwide outbreak of cyclosporiasis related to McDonald’s salads containing salad mix from Fresh Express.

Fresh Express, which is a subsidiary of the multi-national icon Chiquita Brands. That outbreak has sickened almost 400 people in 16 states with infections caused by the Cyclospora parasite.

The operators of the McDonald’s in Brevard, NC, voluntarily closed the restaurant for a couple of days this past week to deep clean it. They reopened the location on Friday.

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Official Press Release: August 3, 2018

Transylvania Public Health has received confirmatory laboratory tests from the N.C. State Laboratory of Public Health. Of those people who were tested by their medical providers, a majority were positive for norovirus. We believe this outbreak was caused by being exposed to a highly-contagious virus in a public place.

Although more information is continuing to come in, Transylvania Public Health has received more than 70 cases of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea reported by medical providers, as well as phone calls reporting similar symptoms in more than 200 people since Tuesday, July 31.

Norovirus typically causes diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach pain that lasts for 1 to 3 days. Other symptoms can include fever, headache and body aches. These symptoms and length of illness match closely with the symptoms being reported by those who are ill.

People get norovirus from direct contact with an infected person, consuming food or water that has been contaminated with norovirus or touching contaminated surfaces and then putting your unwashed hands in your mouth.

It only takes a few virus particles to make someone sick, and those who are ill shed billions of these particles. People are most contagious when they are having symptoms like vomiting and for the first few days after recovering, although they can spread norovirus for two weeks or more after they feel better.

Norovirus symptoms usually appear 24-48 hours after being exposed to the virus. Many (but not all) of the people who reported symptoms to us recalled visiting a local restaurant 1-2 days before becoming ill.

Other people reported having close contact with someone who had norovirus symptoms prior to becoming ill.

Public health officials do not believe that this outbreak is connected to the multi-state recall of salads due to cyclosporasis contamination.


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