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CDC: Norovirus more likely to be Spread in Restaurants

Update Date: Jun 04, 2014 02:03 PM EDT

According to a new federal report, restaurants could do more in reducing the number of illnesses caused by norovirus, which is the main culprit for acute gastroenteritis, more popularly known as the stomach bug. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that roughly 20 million people get norovirus every year and restaurant workers should be blamed.

"Infected food workers are frequently the source of these outbreaks, often by touching ready-to-eat foods served in restaurants with their bare hands," the experts with the CDC wrote according to CNN.

In the CDC's report, the researchers examined 1,008 norovirus outbreaks recorded from 2009 to 2012 that were reported by state, local and territorial health departments. 520 outbreaks were caused by food contamination. Infected food service workers were responsible for 70 percent of the norovirus outbreaks tied to contaminated foods. The majority of norovirus outbreaks were not foodborne. These outbreaks occurred in long-term care centers, such as hospices, nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

The experts found that one in five food service workers admitted to going into work despite being very ill. These workers stated that even though they had symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea, they went into work out of "fear of job loss" and "not wanting to leave co-workers short-staffed."

The CDC stressed the importance for sick workers to stay home for at least 48 hours after their symptoms have ended. Workers who choose to go into work must wash their hands with soap and water regularly and especially when they are handling food items.

"Businesses can consider using measures that would encourage sick workers to stay home, such as paid sick leave and a staffing plan that includes on-call workers," said the CDC's Aron Hall.

Norovirus is a highly contagious infection that causes symptoms such as diarrhea, stomach pain and nausea. The virus can be transmitted whenever an infected person defecates or vomits. The virus can also survive on countertops and in freezing weather for up to two weeks. It is resistant to a lot of the popular disinfectant and hand sanitizer products used to kill germs.

The CDC report can be found here.

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