3 weeks in November: 56 hospital outbreaks of norovirus in West Midlands and North East UK hospitals

Outbreak News Today again, citing Public Health England (PHE) as documenting 56 suspected and laboratory confirmed hospital norovirus outbreaks with the West Midlands and North East regions from the week beginning Nov. 3 through the week beginning Nov. 24.

This brings the annual total to 572 hospital norovirus outbreaks through the week of Nov.24.

53 sickened: Norovirus suspected in outbreak of illness at Nassau Inn

The Princeton Health Department concluded an investigation of Nassau Inn following reports of illness from Thanksgiving diners, the Times of Trenton reported.

norovirus-2Town health officer Jeffrey Grosser said that norovirus is suspected in the majority of reported cases due to the nature of the symptoms and rapid onset of illness, although the department has not obtained confirmed lab specimens from the ill diners.

Officials collected information from 53 customers whose symptoms included vomiting and diarrhea.

As part of the investigation, the department examined the hotel’s practices for heating food, refrigeration and cleaning. Health officers conducted interviews with employees and reminded them to wash their hands, sanitize touchable surfaces and remain home from work if they felt sick.

20 sickened at Subway: Colorado norovirus outbreak in BV serves as warning

Local health officials said they hope a norovirus outbreak in Buena Vista that left approximately 20 people ill in mid-November will serve as a reminder to area restaurants and food providers to be extra cautious.

norovirusThe Mountain Mail reports Chaffee County Public Health received complaints from five people saying they were ill after eating food from the Subway in Buena Vista, according to a restaurant inspection report.

Lab tests on samples from the five individuals all tested positive for norovirus.

Public Health estimates roughly 20 people, mostly students at Buena Vista High School, might have fallen ill in the outbreak.

An investigation by Chaffee County Environmental Health Manager Victor Crocco, who declined to name the restaurant, found that one employee reported feeling ill the day after the illness was originally reported.

Subway manager Brandon Alexander said he did not recall any of the employees being sick around the time of the outbreak.

Crocco’s investigation led him to conclude a sick employee, and not a larger food contamination, most likely caused the contamination.

Alexander said he doesn’t remember anything like this happening in his 8 years at the restaurant.

Barf spreads and why I work at home: How quickly one sick employee can infect an entire workplace

Using tracer viruses, researchers found that contamination of just a single doorknob or tabletop results in the spread of viruses throughout office buildings, hotels, and health care facilities. Within 2 to 4 hours, the virus could be detected on 40 to 60 percent of workers and visitors in the facilities and commonly touched objects, according to research presented at the 54th Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC), an infectious disease meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

phageThere is a simple solution, though, says Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona, Tucson, who presented the study.

“Using disinfecting wipes containing quaternary ammonium compounds (QUATS) registered by EPA as effective against viruses like norovirus and flu, along with hand hygiene, reduced virus spread by 80 to 99 percent,” he says.

Norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Each year, it causes an estimated 19-21 million illnesses and contributes to 56,000-71,000 hospitalizations and 570-800 deaths. Touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus then putting your fingers in your mouth is a common source of infection.

In the study, Gerba and his colleagues used bacteriophage MS-2 as a surrogate for the human Norovirus, as it is similar in shape, size and resistance to disinfectants. The phage was placed on 1 to 2 commonly touched surfaces (door knob or table top) at the beginning of the day in office buildings, conference room and a health care facility. After various periods of time (2 to 8 hours)  they sampled 60 to 100 fomites, surfaces capable of carrying infectious organisms (light switches, bed rails, table tops, countertops, push buttons, coffee pots handles, sink tap handles, door knobs, phones and computer equipment), for the phages.

norovirus“Within 2 to 4 hours between 40 to 60% of the fomites sampled were contaminated with virus,” says Gerba.

In the intervention phase cleaning personal and employees were provided with QUATS disinfectant containing wipes and instructed on proper use (use of at least once daily). The number of fomites on which virus was detected was reduced by 80% or greater and the concentration of virus reduced by 99% or more.

There are 90 different EPA-registered quat-based formulations available under 1500 different brand names that are formulated to kill Norovirus on solid surfaces. These are available as wipes or ready-to-use liquids or concentrates for use by professional maintenance teams. 

“The results shown that viral contamination of fomites in facilities occurs quickly, and that a simple intervention can greatly help to reduce exposure to viruses,” says Gerba.

Heston don’t know food safety

Amy and I both had an idiosyncratic experience in Melbourne over the weekend while celebrating Sorenne’s sixth birthday: we read a newspaper.

heston_blumenthalIn print.

On the cover of the Saturday magazine was a fawning piece about chef Heston Blumenthal, who is packing up his famed Fat Duck restaurant and moving it to Melbourne for six months, while the UK location undergoes renovations.

Amy read the piece and said, “I know why he made those 550 people sick at The Fat Duck: he has no training and only four weeks of restaurant experience before opening The Fat Duck.”

Unsurprisingly, the piece doesn’t mention that nasty outbreak of Norovirus that sickened 529 at the Fat Duck, which only seats some 40 people a night, so the virus was circulating between staff and patrons and back again.

A report by the UK Health Protection Agency concluded that Norovirus was probably introduced at the restaurant through contaminated shellfish, including oysters that were served raw and razor clams that may not have been appropriately handled or cooked.

Investigators identified several weaknesses in procedures at the restaurant may have contributed to ongoing transmission including: delayed response to the incident, the use of inappropriate environmental cleaning products, and staff working when ill. Up to 16 of the restaurant’s food handlers were reportedly working with Norovirus symptoms before it was voluntarily closed

Heston shills for Coles, Jamie Oliver shils for Woolworths, and both suck at food safety.

Why does Australia have to rely on overrated Brits for food porn?

So in Feb. 2015, when Blumenthal will leave his British power base and bring his beloved Duck, including almost its entire staff to, of all places, Melbourne’s Crown Casino, I won’t be attending.

The restaurant is being built here, and will operate for six months (while the English Fat Duck building is renovated). Then, when it closes, a second Dinner by Heston Blumenthal restaurant on the same site will remain permanently in Melbourne.

Science! MIT experiencing gastroenteritis outbreak

The boffins at MIT Medical need a refresher course in handwashing following an outbreak of acute gastroenteritis on campus.

scienceAccording to associate medical director Howard Heller, MIT Medical saw two patients with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea at the beginning of the week and 16 during the day on Wednesday. MIT-EMS responded to a few more cases overnight, and as of noon on Thursday, a small number of additional patients with similar symptoms had come into Urgent Care. Heller notes that cases do not appear to be linked to any specific dorm or dining hall.

“This may or may not be norovirus,” Heller says. Norovirus, which causes a severe and acute form of gastroenteritis, can spread quickly, especially in dense, semi-closed communities. “But whether it’s norovirus or not,” Heller continues, “our response should be the same — paying extra attention to practicing good hygiene. Frequent and consistent hand-washing is the best way to prevent the spread of this type of virus.” 

We’re all hosts on a viral planet: Viruses help keep the gut healthy

Drunken graduate student discussions about the role of viruses in human development have taken on new importance now that researchers studying mice have shown that a virus can help maintain and restore a healthy gut in much the same way that friendly bacteria do.

kellysheroes2t1oddballThe work “shows for the first time that a virus can functionally substitute for a bacterium and provide beneficial effects,” says Julie Pfeiffer, a virologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas who was not involved with the study. “It’s shocking.”

Our bodies are mostly microbes, with each of us hosting a hundred trillion bacteria as our so-called microbiome. These bacteria appear to play a role in everything from our weight to our allergies. But viruses also lurk in and around those bacteria—and they vastly outnumber the microbes.

Like the microbiome, this “virome” may be important for human health. One recent study, for example, found that viruses that are abundant in saliva may weed out harmful bacteria. Kenneth Cadwell, a virologist at New York University School of Medicine in New York City, wanted to know what viruses in the gut might be doing. In particular, he was interested in a group called noroviruses. Although they are notorious for causing epidemics of diarrhea on cruise ships and disease in lab mouse colonies, some noroviruses infect mice with no ill effects.

Reminds of this scene from 1978’s Animal house, but I could only find the clip in this other language.

172 Fall Ill after Norovirus outbreak on Princess Cruises Ship headed to L.A.

More than 170 passengers and crew members on board a Princess Cruises cruise ship that was docked in San Pedro Sunday have fallen ill following an outbreak of Norovirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

vomit cruiseThe Crown Princess ship was sailing from Tahiti to Los Angeles on a month-long cruise when passengers began exhibiting symptoms of the gastrointestinal illness, according to a statement from Princess Cruises that was sent on Sunday.

“Over the last few days, the ship began seeing an increased number” of the cases, the statement read.

About 20 people currently had active cases of the illness, which causes vomiting and diarrhea.

Princess Cruises has taken active steps to combat the virus, including increased cleanings and disinfection procedures, and encouraging hand hygiene and case reporting, the CDC Vessel Sanitation Program reported.

Other steps would be taken once passengers disembarked from the ship to prevent the virus from spreading.

All you could hear was people vomiting and at night in the Sahara, noise travels far’ Desert trekker struck by Norovirus in sand storm

A Sevenoaks fundraiser had to be rescued from the Sahara Desert after he and his team were struck down by norovirus in a sand storm.

sevenoaks.noro.sandstormMike Purtill, of Amherst Place in Riverhead, was five days and 50km into the Alzheimer’s Society trek when disaster hit.

“We were told sleeping outside was a real experience,” said Mr Purtill who was one of 30 to be struck down. “But it was more like a scene from a horror movie. All you could hear was people vomiting and, well, other things. At night in the Sahara, noise travels far.”

With the situation getting out of hand 4x4s were sent to pick up the bedraggled group.

With their symptoms in full effect and the sandstorm raging, the group were taken across the bumpy desert to receive medical attention.

40 sick at NAACP annual gala; Hotel Sofitel Norovirus outbreak wasn’t contained

The outbreak of gastrointestinal illness at Hotel Sofitel in Redwood Shores continued days after last month’s ill-fated NAACP dinner, leading the hotel to temporarily shut down all its food operations for disinfection.

The hotel and San Mateo County Health System confirmed Monday that additional peoplenorovirus-2, including guests and hotel employees, became sick in the days after the NAACP State Convention on Oct. 25, when 12 people were taken by ambulance to hospitals for treatment of dehydration. Others drove themselves to the hospital the night of the gala or rode out the symptoms at home.

The cause of the outbreak remains under investigation. Hotel Sofitel spokeswoman Sandra Duhamel said foodborne illness and a norovirus are both possibilities. County environmental health investigators didn’t find any violations linked to foodborne illnesses, she said. The company hired an epidemiologist who said the symptoms, vomiting and diarrhea with recovery in 24 to 48 hours, indicated a possible norovirus.

The hotel has conducted a propertywide cleaning under the guidance of Belfor Property Restoration, said Duhamel, adding some of the food outlets are now back in operation. The hotel was open for business Monday, and a handful of guests were seen eating downstairs.