CDC Report on Norovirus Says 20 Millions Americans Affected Each Year
Long-associated with headlines about cruise ship outbreaks, the norovirus affects as many as 20 million Americans each year says a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to the CDC, norovirus is “the leading cause of disease outbreaks from contaminated food in the U.S.” It is transmitted by person-to-person contact and by eating contaminated food. Preventing norovirus can be difficult as it can survive freezing temperatures and heat up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Norovirus can resist common disinfectants and survive on surfaces for up to two weeks.
Norovirus in Food Service
The new CDC report focused on norovirus transmission in food service. According to the CDC:
1 in 5 food service workers have reported working while sick with vomiting or diarrhea. Workers are often pressured to work for fear of losing their job or leaving co-workers understaffed.
Food workers under observation only properly wash their hands 25% of the time when it is necessary.
About 54% of outbreaks caused by food workers involved a worker touching ready-to-eat foods with his or her bare hands.
Ways to Prevent Norovirus
The CDC provides several recommendations to prevent the spread of norovirus. One of the key recommendations is that food establishments institute policies requiring ill workers to remain home for at least 48 hours after symptoms stop. Additionally,
- Workers should tell a manager when they are sick with vomiting or diarrhea.
- Observe proper hand washing techniques including using soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
- Clean and sanitize surfaces using a chlorine-based product regularly.
- Avoid touching ready-to-eat foods with bare hands.