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Nearly 100 people infected in 'very large' norovirus outbreak in SLO County, officials say

Tribune - 5/25/2023

May 25—An outbreak of norovirus stemming from a North County restaurant has sickened close to 100 people, according to the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department.

SLO County Public Health Epidemiologist Jessie Burmester said 97 people have been reported sick as part of a confirmed norovirus outbreak earlier this month.

Burmester said the Public Health Department traced the "unusual, very large community outbreak" back to a North County restaurant, though she did not disclose the name of the business.

"When we perform our investigations, we're really looking for a common source or exposure point," she said. "Individuals have provided the name of the restaurant consistently for all the individuals that have reported on behalf of the 97 people so far."

Burmester said the Public Health Department reached its threshold for an outbreak — two reported cases in separate households — on May 15.

That day, the agency received more than two reports about the same exposure source, she said.

Follow-up investigation showed some people experiencing symptoms of norovirus tied to that facility as early as May 11, Burmester added.

Once it was identified, the Public Health Department began working to help eliminate further spread by pushing "mass cleaning and disinfection" of the restaurant, as well as attempting to track where the cases originated.

The restaurant in question has been cleaned three times since the outbreak was first reported, she said.

"This has been particularly challenging outbreak," Burmester said, "but it is not abnormal to see norovirus spread like this, because it doesn't take much of the virus to spread at all."

How does norovirus spread? Epidemiologist explains

According to Burmester, there are about 2,500 norovirus outbreaks each year, impacting between 18 million and 21 million Americans.

The virus, which is perhaps best known for its propensity for popping up during cruises, is spread by ingesting infected fecal matter or vomit. It can be spread via contact with a contaminated surface, or even through food, Burmester said.

Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and stomach pain, and they will typically present within about 12 to 48 hours after being exposed to the virus, Burmester said.

There is good news for anyone who catches it: Norovirus typically resolves on its own within about two days without any medical intervention, she said.

Anyone who thinks they may have norovirus is encouraged to hydrate and stay home from work.

People should also remember to thoroughly wash their hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds to help stop the spread of the virus.

Burmester said the Public Health Department is currently tracking a handful of other suspected potential norovirus outbreaks, but no others have been confirmed as of yet.

This story was originally published May 24, 2023, 7:04 PM.


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