Earlier this year, a US restaurant closed its doors twice due to outbreaks of norovirus among diners and staff. While management at the sushi and burger bar did quite a lot of investigating to track down the source, and followed procedures from the Centers for Disease Control to deal with the problem, no specific source (such as a particular food) was identified.
After the second closure in a week, as a result of a second outbreak, management at the restaurant reportedly decided to hire professional restaurant cleaners to clean and sanitise the facility – something they did not do the first time round, instead choosing to sanitise the restaurant themselves.
Background on norovirus
Norovirus is a single-strand RNA virus that can cause acute gastroenteritis. Of the people exposed to it, some will shed the virus without symptoms, some will not get infected at all, while others will be unfortunate enough to suffer symptoms. These can include acute vomiting, stomach cramps, nausea, and watery diarrhoea. Some might also suffer aches and pains, mild fever and headaches.
Symptoms usually abate within 24 to 72 hours. However, norovirus can be dangerous for people who are immuno-compromised and for infants and the elderly. The main risk is due to dehydration.
The virus is spread through close contact with an infected person, from contaminated food or water, or from touching contaminated surfaces. It can stay in a person’s system for up to two weeks after infection, even after symptoms have abated.
There are many types of norovirus, which means that while a person may develop immunity to one strain after exposure, they may still become infected again in the future.
For most people, treatment will just involve rest as well as good hygiene and hydration. Some people may benefit from rehydration fluids from the chemist. People with severe symptoms may require hospitalisation to avoid dangerous dehydration.
To reduce the risk of norovirus outbreaks in your restaurant or café:
- Insist that staff stay at home if they are infected.
- Discard food that you suspect may be infected with norovirus.
- Ensure hand washing and thorough drying occurs prior to food preparation and after visiting the bathroom.
- Ensure staff wash vegetables and fruit thoroughly prior to food preparation and closely follow safety laws regarding food preparation and cooking.
- Have your establishment regularly cleaned by professional restaurant cleaners who are trained and experienced in restaurant cleaning, sanitation processes, and procedures for avoiding cross-contamination.
As the US case demonstrates, a professional restaurant cleaning service is an essential part of keeping your establishment safe and hygienic for staff and patrons.