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Kent County Health Department Concludes Food-Borne Illness Investigation

May 18, 2005

For additional information contact:

Amy Morris, Community Relations Coordinator, 616.632.7110

(Grand Rapids, MI) –Kent County Health Department (KCHD) has concluded its investigation into a food-borne illness outbreak at the Blimpie’s Restaurant located at 1040 Leonard NW.

KCHD has determined the cause of the food-borne illness to be one of the Noroviruses. Noroviruses are highly contagious and are considered the leading cause of food-borne illness in the United States. Vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramping are the symptoms most commonly seen in Norovirus cases. Transmission of the viruses occur through fecal/oral routes and contact with contaminated surfaces.

The majority of the individuals reporting illness did not visit health care providers and all have fully recovered. A timeline of the investigation is as follows:

May 5th- Kent County Health Department was contacted by Sibley Elementary regarding a possible food-borne illness outbreak. Symptoms included nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, and fever. KCHD investigation begins.

May 6th- Specialty Printing Services contacts KCHD to report similar food-borne illness. Both Specialty Printing Services and Sibley Elementary report consumption of sandwiches from Blimpies at 1040 Leonard NW.

May 6th- KCHD Sanitarian inspects Blimpie’s at 1040 Leonard NW. Results of inspection did not indicate any immediate, direct cause of the outbreak. Records obtained during inspection indicate Bethany Christian Services also received products from Blimpie’s. Bethany Christian Services is contacted regarding outbreak. Individuals also report becoming ill.

May 8th- Members of community contact KCHD to report similar illnesses associated with Blimpie’s Restaurant.

May 9th- KCHD identified 125 individuals reporting similar symptoms after consuming food products from Blimpie’s.

May 10th- Blimpie’s Restaurant complies with KCHD recommendation and voluntarily closes.

May 16th- Test results indicate Norovirus as cause of outbreak.

May 16th- Blimpie’s Restaurant cleaned and sanitized for reopening.

May 17th- Blimpie’s Restaurant inspected by KCHD Sanitarian and approved for reopening.

The Kent County Health Department has worked extensively with the local owner and Blimpie’s International, located in Atlanta, to provide information on proper food handling, sanitation and preparation techniques. The local owner of Blimpie’s has been cooperative throughout the investigation and has complied with all of the recommendations made by the health department.

Food-borne illnesses can be highly contagious and spread rapidly. Proper hand washing can reduce the risk of illness along with proper food handling, storage and cooking techniques. Proper hand washing techniques include washing hands vigorously with soap and warm water for fifteen seconds before preparing foods, after using the restroom, after changing diapers and prior to eating. Additional information on food-borne illness, proper hand washing and other tips for preventing illness can be found at www.accesskent.com/Health/HealthDepartment/CD_Epid/.

Individuals who feel they have become sick as a result of a food-borne illness should contact the Kent County Health Department’s Communicable Disease and Epidemiology Unit at 616.632.7228.

KCHD has been in the business of providing health services to the whole of Kent County since 1931. The Health Department is home to nearly 325 employees including public health nurses, sanitarians, health educators, technicians, public health administrators and the Kent County Animal Shelter. The Health Department operates five satellite clinics located in Wyoming, Kentwood, Rockford, Sheldon Complex, and the Westside of Grand Rapids. To learn more about our services visit www.accesskent.com/health

More on this outbreak: Michigan Blimpie's Norovirus Outbreak

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