Norovirus is nearly synonymous with food poisoning. It is the single most common culprit of foodborne disease every year, and second most common virus after the common cold.

It is an intensely contagious virus that is resistant to disinfectants, and causes an estimated 20 million illnesses each year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This results in almost 2 million outpatient visits annually, and 400,000 emergency department visits, typically in young children. Up to 800 deaths are reported each year.

Who is at risk?

Anyone can be infected with Norovirus, though young children and older adults are at greater risk. Most outbreaks occur in food-service settings, like restaurants or catered events. Because of the highly contagious nature of the virus, it spreads quickly in closed settings, such as daycare centers, nursing homes, and schools.

Because of tight living quarters and shared dining, Norovirus is also seen regularly in high-profile cruise ship outbreaks. In the years 2008-2014, a total of 133 acute gastroenteritis outbreaks were reported on cruise ships. Of over 130,000 illnesses, the large majority (90 percent) health officials attributed to Norovirus.

In 2015, twelve outbreaks were reported on six different cruise lines, including Princess Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Holland America Line, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, and Norwegian Cruise Line.

Norovirus Symptoms

Once exposed to the virus and ingested, Norovirus causes the intestines and stomach to become inflamed. The most common symptoms include:

• Vomiting
• Diarrhea
• Abdominal pain
• Nausea
• Fever
• Head and body aches

Symptoms typically present themselves 12 to 48 hours after exposure. Infections usually last for 1 to 3 days with no long-term problems, however, dehydration can sometimes lead to complications.

What causes Norovirus Outbreaks?

Norovirus is often contracted through human contact. A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases suggests norovirus can be spread easily through the air. Furthermore, an infected can person to shed the disease for up to two weeks after exposed. It is possible to build an immunity to particular strains, but it is unknown how long the immunity lasts.

Norovirus is also commonly contracted by consuming contaminated food and water. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common foods associated with infections include:

• Leafy greens (lettuce)
• Raw Fruits
• Shellfish (oysters)

Any food, however, can be contaminated if uncooked or exposed to Norovirus after preparation.

Common Norovirus Outbreaks

Because infected persons can be found anywhere, it is difficult to contain Norovirus. The most commonly reported settings for outbreaks are long-term care facilities. Outbreaks in such centers can last for months, and are particularly hazardous with the elderly population. Cruise ships, schools, and close institutional settings are also especially susceptible.

Restaurants, of course, remain a problem source. Chipotle Mexican Grill, for example, has been responsible for several recent outbreaks of foodborne disease, including one 2015 incident in California where over 200 consumers fell ill with a strain of Norovirus, and a similar case in Boston where over a hundred students were exposed to the virus at the restaurant.

A 2014 report published by the CDC indicates infected food workers cause 70 percent of reported contaminated food outbreaks.

Food Poisoning Lawsuits

If you or a loved one has suffered a food poisoning injury and have questions about the root cause and the legal remedies available to improve quality of life and medical care in Ohio, contact The Lyon Firm at (800) 513-2403. You will speak directly with Mr. Lyon, and he will help you answer these critical questions.