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Nashville Health Officials Look for Cause of Norovirus Outbreak at Opryland Hotel

Apr 7, 2015

The Metro Public Health Department In Tennessee said Monday that two more people have tested positive for norovirus at the Gaylord Opryland hotel. The first case was confirmed by health officials last Friday.

Last Thursday an Opryland representative contacted the health department after a number of guests reported gastrointestinal and/or flu-like symptoms, including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, ABC6 reports ( Health officials have not determined the exact number of people affected, but said fewer than a dozen reported being ill over the weekend.

Norovirus is the leading cause of disease outbreaks from contaminated food in the US. About 20 million people get sick from norovirus each year, most become ill from close contact with infected people or by eating contaminated food, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Infected food workers are responsible for about 70 percent of reported norovirus outbreaks from contaminated food. Norovirus illnesses can be serious, especially for young children and older adults.

Norovirus has gotten attention for outbreaks on cruise ships, but such outbreaks actually account for only about only about 1 percent of all reported norovirus outbreaks, according to the CDC. Norovirus is very contagious; outbreaks can occur wherever people gather or food is served. Symptoms usually include vomiting and diarrhea. Some people with norovirus need to be hospitalized. An infected person can spread norovirus to others through close contact or by contaminating food and surfaces. Food service workers can contaminate food and make many people sick. Investigators cannot always identify the source of contamination, but where they can, the source of contamination is infected food workers in about 70 percent of cases.

To prevent norovirus, the CDC advises careful hand washing with soap and water especially after using the toilet, changing diapers or preparing food. Carefully wash fruits and vegetables before preparing and eating them. The CDC recommends thorough cooking of oysters and other shellfish. The norovirus can survive temperatures as high as 140°F, the CDC explains. Any food that might be contaminated with norovirus should be thrown out. Sick infants and children should be kept out of areas where food is being handled or prepared.

Anyone who has been sick should not prepare food for others or provide care for others requiring close contact for at least three days after symptoms stops. This is especially true for people who work in such settings as schools and day care centers where they could expose others to norovirus. Many local and state health departments require that food service workers with norovirus not work until at least 48 hours after symptoms stop. Finally, the CDC recommends thorough cleaning and disinfecting of contaminated surfaces and laundering of clothes and bedding that may be soiled with vomit or stool.

Nashville health officials are interviewing both those who became ill and those who were not in an effort to determine common connections that may lead them to the source of the norovirus. Officials expect the interview to take several days, according to ABC6. The health officials say Opryland hotel is exceeding health department recommendations for cleaning and disinfection.

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