(Editor’s Note: This is an online-only article attributed to the February/March 2018 issue.)
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In November of 2015, the North Carolina Division of Public Health was notified that approximately 44 people attending a company Thanksgiving lunch became ill with moderate to serious intestinal disease and diarrhea. Within hours of the notification, the department set up a website asking lunch attendees—those sick and those that did not get sick—what food and drink they consumed at the event.
Of the 80 people asked to complete the survey, 73 percent did so. Of those who reported they got sick, the following was revealed:
- Most became ill within 13 hours of the lunch;
- 93 percent said they experienced moderate to severe diarrhea;
- 91 percent reported abdominal pain; of these, most reported vomiting; and
- Nearly half of the people that became sick had eaten turkey and stuffing, which were served together.
It was becoming clear to public health officials that this was a classic case of norovirus. The virus normally comes on quickly with precisely these types of symptoms, often the result of eating specific food. Follow-up tests of those that became ill proved this to be the case. They then turned their focus to the commercial caterer that prepared the lunch.
The caterer had a “permitted” kitchen that has passed inspection by public health officials, but this time the meal was cooked in the home of the caterer. Once the meal was prepared, it was delivered to the party setting by car in stages—with the turkey and stuffing left unattended in warming pans or at ambient temperatures for up to eight hours before serving.
Health officials blamed the outbreak squarely on the caterer for not following proper safety procedures: using an “unpermitted” kitchen, leaving food unattended for a prolonged period, and for failure to monitor the temperature of the food products before consumption. All of these contributed to the growth of pathogens that can cause norovirus.| | | Next → | Single Page