About Norovirus

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Outbreak News

Norovirus confirmed in Bravo restaurant illnesses

Same virus hit Carrabba's; Bravo reopens

By Kevin Grasha and Christine Rook

Lansing State Journal

Published May 17, 2006

The same virus that sickened hundreds of patrons at a Delta Township restaurant in January has been blamed for the recent outbreak at Bravo Cucina Italiana.

A norovirus caused at least 360 illnesses linked to the Eastwood Towne Center eatery, said Dr. Dean Sienko, Ingham County's medical director.

"Five specimens of patrons were sent to the lab, and all five of those came back positive for norovirus," he said.

Bravo reopened Tuesday evening, after getting the go-ahead from the health department, said Pam Ritz, spokeswoman for Bravo Development Inc., which owns the restaurant.

Ritz said outside consultants, as well as the health department, have reviewed their procedures.

"We want to make sure we have the proper cleaning protocol, so we don't have a recurrence," Ritz said.

A norovirus was blamed for an outbreak in January at Carrabba's Italian Grill. At least half of all foodborne-illness outbreaks can be attributed to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Three Bravo patrons have been hospitalized with dehydration, Sienko said, and people in three states have been afflicted.

Patrons reported becoming ill after visiting the Lansing Township restaurant between May 3 and May 11, when Bravo closed. The first report of illness came into the health department May 6.

Cross contamination

The virus can be spread through direct contact with an infected person, eating contaminated food or touching contaminated surfaces or objects and placing that hand in one's mouth.

It is possible for the virus to be transmitted by air. Symptoms of the illness include vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps and a low-grade fever.

Investigators have not yet identified the source.

Health officials are analyzing information collected from the 360 reported cases of illness and from restaurant patrons who did not fall ill. They interviewed more than 500 people.

The goal, Sienko said, is to look for commonalities and to break down the results by day to see what item or items led to the illness and when.

"A virus gets into a restaurant," Sienko said, "and you get cross contamination."

Highly contagious

Sienko recalled working a case in Marquette in 1985 for the CDC in Atlanta. Salmonella bacteria showed up in a restaurant in turkey then migrated to potato salad and finally to a green salad.

People infected with norovirus are contagious from the moment they begin feeling ill to at least three days after they recover, according to the CDC Some can be contagious for as long as two weeks after they get better.

Ritz said outside consultants will remain at the restaurant to observe and make suggestions.

"We want as many minds as possible applying science to this," she said.

Contact Christine Rook at 377-1261 or clrook@lsj.com. Contact Kevin Grasha at 267-1347 or kgrasha@lsj.com.

• Norovirus also is known as Norwalk-like virus - named for an outbreak about 30 years ago in Norwalk, Ohio.

• It can be spread through direct contact with an infected person, eating contaminated food, or touching contaminated surfaces or objects and placing that hand in one's mouth. It's also transmitted by air.

• Norovirus afflicted more than 430 patrons at a Delta Township Carrabba's Italian Grill in January.

• Symptoms usually include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramping. Some people have a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and a general sense of tiredness.

• The illness often begins suddenly; symptoms last only about two days.

• The virus received international attention in 2002 when it sickened more than 1,500 passengers on several cruise ships. It also has been blamed for outbreaks at hotels.

More on this outbreak: Carrabba's Restaurant Norovirus Outbreak

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