Officials with the Metro Public Health Department In Tennessee have confirmed that three people have at the Gaylord Opryland hotel have tested positive for norovirus, the two latest cases yesterday.
A hotel representative contacted the health department last Thursday after a number of guests reported gastrointestinal and/or flu-like symptoms, including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, television station ABC6 reports (wate.com). Though health officials have released an exact number of people affected, the health department said fewer than a dozen reported being ill over the weekend.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says norovirus—which is very contagious—is the leading cause of disease outbreaks from contaminated food. About 20 million people get sick from norovirus each year, and between 500 and 800 die. Most become ill from close contact with an infected people or from eating contaminated food. The CDC calculates that infected food workers are responsible for about 70 percent of reported norovirus outbreaks from contaminated food. Norovirus can be serious, even fatal, for young children and older adults. Symptoms usually include vomiting and diarrhea and some infected people require hospitalization.
Norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships draw a lot of media attention, but such outbreaks actually account for only about only about 1 percent of all reported outbreaks, according to the CDC. But norovirus is very contagious and outbreaks can occur wherever people gather or food is served. An infected person can spread norovirus through close contact or by contaminating food and surfaces. Food service workers can contaminate food and make many people sick and they should avoid touching ready-to-eat foods with their bare hands.
The CDC offers a number of tips for avoiding norovirus infection, the most important of which is careful hand washing with soap and water especially after using the toilet, changing diapers or preparing food. Both at home and in restaurants and other food service venues, fruits and vegetables should be carefully washed before preparing and eating. The CDC recommends thorough cooking of oysters and other shellfish because norovirus can survive temperatures as high as 140°F. Any food suspected of being 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 food service workers and people who work in schools and day care centers where they could expose many 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 say they are interviewing both infected individuals and those who did not become sick in order to determine the source of the norovirus, according to ABC6. Health officials say Opryland hotel is exceeding the health department’s recommendations for cleaning and disinfecting the hotel.