Is that all there is? Norovirus suspected by Nebraska health department

The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department is investigating an incidence of what it suspects is norovirus.

Details of who may have the highly contagious disease, where and how it was reported were not available from the department. 

“We have an ongoing investigation, so we can’t discuss specifics,” said Tim Timmons, communicable disease program supervisor. “At this point we suspect norovirus, but we’re still investigating. There is no risk to the public at this time.” 

Is that all there is?

Handwashing matters: Atlanta area Hibachi Express fails reinspection

I’m often critical of the retail/foodservice’s focus on temperatures (cooking, cooling, holding) as the biggest noncompliance area, which gets extrapolated to what needs to be controlled.

Out of temp foods are easier to inspect for than cross-contamintation and hygiene: they are measured with a thermometer and don’t require observation of the act – so the relative number of data points skews  compliance data towards temperature control. Also, norovirus is so prevalent (70% of the foodborne outbreaks are associated with food service) and temps don’t really matter with that pathogen. hand_washing

Looking for, and shutting a place down because of, poor handwashing is good.

Gwinnett County health officials suspended service at a Lawrenceville Hibachi Express and conducted on-site food safety training after the restaurant failed a second inspection in less than 10 days.

According to the inspection report, employees were not washing their hands when re-entering the food prep area after returning from the restroom.

Hibachi Express, 1417 Grayson Highway, Lawrenceville, scored 46/U on the follow-up inspection. The restaurant scored 63/U on a routine inspection seven days earlier, and prior to that had an 81/B.

Also, one of the restrooms had been turned into a sleeping area and was also used to store toilet paper and napkins. The other one was being used as a unisex restroom, the inspector said.

I don’t want my napkins stored in someone’s bedroom.

Opryland Norovirus case count now at 3

I first visited Music Row and Opryland in 1997 as part of the International Association for Food Protection annual meeting (I may have the year wrong).

John-Prine-300x199I went back to Music Row in 2004, to give a talk to a grocery group, oh, and catch John Prine one night and Lyle Lovett the next at the Ryman.

If my church wasn’t the local hockey arena, it would be the Ryman.

But over at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, Metro health officials now say that they have confirmed 3 Norovirus cases.

Metro Public Health Department officials have been working closely with Opryland Hotel and the Tennessee Department of Health since being asked by the hotel to investigate the cases last Thursday.

CAFP Symposium January 22, 2015 at NC State: Linda Harris headlines

If you will be in the N.C. State University/Raleigh area tomorrow (January 22) come on out to a 2hr afternoon Carolina Association for Food Protection sponsored symposium – with friend of barfblog Linda Harris as the headliner. Event Title: Carolina Association for Food Protection symposium.

Keynote by Dr. Linda Harris (UC Davis): Food Safety Considerations for Nuts Produced in the United StatesIMG_0521

Location: Schaub G40 (driving directions below)

Event Date & Time:

Thursday January 22


Event Description:

The Carolina Association for Food Protection hosts a symposium highlighting food safety issues for the food safety community and partners. The event includes four speakers:

2:30- 2:45 Matt Moore (PhD candidate, NCSU, FBNS): Use of a Nucleic Acid Aptamer-based Method to Study Thermal Inactivation of Human Norovirus

2:45- 3:00 Chip Manuel (PhD candidate, NCSU, FBNS): Rapid Destruction of Human Norovirus Capsid and Genome Occurs during Exposure to Copper-containing Surfaces

3:00-3:30 Brett Weed (State Liaison, Food and Drug Administration): Careers in food safety regulation

3:30-4:30 Linda Harris  (Cooperative Extension Specialist in Microbial Food Safety, UC Davis; Vice-President IAFP): Food Safety Considerations for Nuts Produced in the United States.

The first two talks are from students who won 1st place awards in the International Association for Food Protection’s (IAFP) 2014 Developing Scientist Competition.

Refreshments and snacks will be provided


Ben Chapman
919 515 8099

Let me know if you are planning on making it (for parking instructions).

From Durham, Chapel Hill and points west
    • Take I-40 east to Raleigh.
    • Take Exit 289 – Wade Avenue.
    • Continue on this freeway a few miles, pass underneath the beltline (I-440), and go through two stoplights.
    • Turn right at the third stoplight, onto Faircloth Street.
    •  Haircloth turns into Gorman St.
    • Turn left at the second stoplight, Sullivan Drive. 
    • Continue ~ a mile Schaub is on the right hand side.
    • Park off of Sullivan drive in the West Lot or West Deck

From Clayton, Benson and points east
    • Take I-40 West to Raleigh.
    • Take Exit 295 – Gorman Street.
    • Turn right at the foot of the exit onto Gorman Street.
    • Continue a couple of miles and cross Western Boulevard; the campus will be on your right.
    • Turn right at Sullivan Drive. 
    • Continue ~ a mile Schaub is on the right hand side.
    • Park off of Sullivan drive in the West Lot or West Deck

Have an outbreak, lose business; norovirus leads to cancellations at Opryland

One of the consequences of being the source of an outbreak is that folks start to avoid to avoid you. Hotels seem to have persistence issues.

The Tennessean reports that a pharmaceutical company has cancelled a meeting that was to be held at Nashville’s Opryland because of noro concerns.

Gaylord Opryland 20130408-l-LLilly Diabetes, which is a part of Eli Lilly and Company, issued a statement Tuesday about pulling out of Opryland: “The health and safety of our employees is our top priority. After monitoring the situation at Opryland over the weekend, we did make the decision to cancel our meetings that were scheduled there for this week.” As of Monday, the Metro Public Health Department said preliminary lab tests indicate that three people have tested positive for the norovirus. 

Norovirus in seaweed

In February 2012, an outbreak of gastroenteritis was reported in school A; a successive outbreak was reported at school B. A retrospective cohort study conducted in school A showed that seasoned green seaweed with radishes (relative risk 7·9, 95% confidence interval 1·1–56·2) was significantly associated with illness.

seaweed-saladSimilarly, a case-control study of students at school B showed that cases were 5·1 (95% confidence interval 1·1–24·8) times more likely to have eaten seasoned green seaweed with pears. Multiple norovirus genotypes were detected in samples from students in schools A and B. Norovirus GII.6 isolated from schools A and B were phylogenetically indistinguishable. Green seaweed was supplied by company X, and norovirus GII.4 was isolated from samples of green seaweed.

Green seaweed was assumed to be linked to these outbreaks. To our knowledge, this is the first reported norovirus outbreak associated with green seaweed.

First norovirus outbreaks associated with consumption of green seaweed (Enteromorpha spp.) in South Korea

Epidemiology and Infection / Volume 143 / Issue 03 / February 2015, pp 515-521

J.H. Park, H.S. Jeong, J.S. Lee, S.W. Lee, Y.H. Choi, S. J. Choi, I.S. Joo, Y.R. Kim, Y.K. Park, and S.K Youn

Cruising: Avoiding Norovirus on the high seas

Experts say to prepare ahead is the best way to keep your health while on vacation. Bring hand sanitizer and wash your hands frequently, according to the New York Daily News. Proper hygeiene can go a long way. Practice your balance because you will want to avoid touching handrails.

cruisingExperts say Norovirus is spread by touching elevator buttons, salt and pepper shakers and anything else that the mass population will also come in contact with on the cruise ship.

According to reports, door handles, toilet seats and baby-changing tables pose a big risk, so proceed with caution! Press the elevator button with a knuckle instead of your fingertips, a trick that women with manicures have known the world over.

Avoid contact with salt and pepper shakers because norovirus is spread by common contact.  If you really need salt or pepper on your food, use a napkin to handle the shakers.

Use a handkerchief or napkin to touch door handles. 

vomit cruiseChange the baby on your cabin bed and use your foot to put down or lift a toilet seat. Handrails are deadly for spreading the virus. 

Avoid contact with the handrails and practice your balance by walking down the stairs in your home or office without using the banister. 

Opryland linked to outbreak; health officials think it’s norovirus

On my first trip to Nashville in 1999, Dani’s aunt (who we were visiting) took us to the Opryland hotel. We walked around for about an hour, grabbed some ice cream and took in the vibe. The drive down Music Row was more my thing, but the hotel was pretty impressive.
According to the Tennessean, at least 10 guests of Opryland have been treated for gastroenteritis, and it looks like the cause is norovirus. Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 8.07.49 PM

Burba Isaacs, a vendor at a hardware trade show at Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center recently, said she and her husband arrived at the hotel on Jan. 7 and left on Jan. 10.

Around midnight Jan. 10, the Kentucky resident woke up “horrendously ill” with vomiting and diarrhea. She said her husband had developed similar symptoms.

“I haven’t been that sick in a long time,” Isaacs said by phone Thursday. “I have absolutely no idea (what happened).”

The hotel is trying to determine how many guests are experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms and seeking the health department’s help, hotel spokeswoman Jenny Barker said in an email to The Tennessean.

“The safety and health of our guests and employees is our top priority, and we are deeply concerned to learn of a number of guests experiencing symptoms of gastrointestinal illness,” Barker said. “We are providing health care services to all affected guests. To prevent further spread, additional precautionary sanitization measures have been implemented throughout the hotel.” reports that health officials confirmed that at least one guest was ill with norovirus.

Norovirus outbreak, including a death, linked to Kansas Meals on Wheels; handwashing issues cited

When I was a kid I used to visit my grandparents in Campbellford,Ontario (that’s in Canada) a bunch. My grandparents lived most of their lives in Toronto (that’s also in Canada) but had retired to this town about 2hrs outside of the city.

My grandparents were into community stuff: volunteering for the hospital auxiliary, organizing charity curling bonspiels and golf tournaments and driving some of their more elderly neighbors to doctor’s appointments.Unknown-1

And my grandfather drove around some food for Meals on Wheels.

I remember being about 8 and going on his route one spring break morning. He grabbed some already-food-filled covered trays and then took a bunch of apples and oranges in bulk. This was before I knew anything about food safety; I didn’t really notice anything about bare hand contact or handwashing.

According to, a norovirus outbreak, tragically including a death, has been linked to a Meals on Wheels service in Kansas.

It has been confirmed by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment that the source of the norovirus outbreak in the Neosho County area last week was Meals on Wheels in southeast Kansas.

KDHE Health Programs Public Information Officer Aimee Rosenow said the numbers of confirmed ill have not changed since Friday when there were 29 confirmed ill. 

Rosenow said epidemiology staff are still working on the case to narrow down the source of infection.

A Jan. 8 food safety inspection of the Chanute Senior Services of SEK facility found problems with hand washing and properly arranging food in coolers to avoid cross-contamination. Samples were also taken of all food from the batch delivered Jan. 6.

KDHE Public Health Public Information Officer Aimee Rosenow said KDHE does not have an autopsy report confirming the cause of death as Norovirus infection and cannot release the name of the deceased. 

“We do know that the patient was ill and has been served by this program,” she said.

Over the past year UNC-Chapel Hill food policy student (and frequent barfblog contributor) Ashley Chaifetz has been researching food handling practices and infrastructure at food pantries in North Carolina (as part of a USDA CAP grant on STECs). Volunteers provide a particular challenge for food safety as they may be transient and have varying food safety values. 




Quaternary ammonium biocides: Efficacy in application

Quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs) are among the most commonly used disinfectants. There has been concern that their widespread use will lead to the development of resistant organisms, and it has been suggested that limits should be place on their use.

Mr._Clean_logoWhile increases in tolerance to QACs have been observed, there is no clear evidence to support the development of resistance to QACs. Since efflux pumps are believe to account for at least some of the increased tolerance found in bacteria, there has been concern that this will enhance the resistance of bacteria to certain antibiotics.

QACs are membrane-active agents interacting with the cytoplasmic membrane of bacteria and lipids of viruses. The wide variety of chemical structures possible has seen an evolution in their effectiveness and expansion of applications over the last century, including non-lipid-containing viruses (i.e., noroviruses).

Selection of formulations and methods of application have been shown to affect the efficacy of QACs. While numerous laboratory studies on the efficacy of QACs are available, relatively few studies have been conducted to assess their efficacy in practice. Better standardized tests for assessing and defining the differences between increases in tolerance versus resistance are needed.

The ecological dynamics of microbial communities where QACs are a main line of defense against exposure to pathogens need to be better understood in terms of sublethal doses and antibiotic resistance.


Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Volume 81, Issue 2, January 2015, Pages 464-469

Charles P. Gerba