Norovirus investigation centers on Seattle area pizza restaurant

Norovirus investigation centers on Seattle area pizza restaurant

by Sue Jones
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Seattle-King County Public Health is investigating an outbreak of norovirus-like illness associated with vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and chills at Rock Wood Fired Pizza in Renton, WA.

No hospitalizations or deaths are associated with the 12-case outbreak.   Rock Wood Fired Pizza, located at 830 N. 10th St. in Renton has a “good” current rating for prior food safety inspections.

Public Health currently has not identified how norovirus was spread within the restaurant. This is not uncommon for norovirus outbreaks, because the virus can spread through multiple contaminated food items, environmental surfaces, and from person to person.

Since February 22, 2022, 9 people from 2 separate meal parties reported becoming ill after eating food from the Rock Wood Fired Pizza between February 19 and 20, 2022.

Public Health has identified three ill employees who reported symptoms consistent with norovirus dating back to February 20, 2022, but who did not work while sick.

Further investigation is ongoing.

Public Health actions

Environmental Health Investigators visited the restaurant on February 23, 2022. Investigators did not find any risk factors that are known to contribute to the spread of norovirus. The restaurant closed on February 23, 2022, to complete a thorough cleaning and disinfection. All ready-to-eat foods were discarded for those processed before the restaurant was disinfected.

Environmental Health investigators again visited the restaurant on February 24 and confirmed proper cleaning and disinfection were completed. The restaurant reopened on February 24, 2022.

Investigators reviewed with restaurant management the requirement that ill staff are not allowed to work until they are symptom-free for at least 48 hours and provided education about preventing the spread of norovirus, including proper handwashing and preventing bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods.

Laboratory testing is in process for some of the individuals who reported norovirus-like illnesses. Often in norovirus outbreaks, no laboratory testing is done because people tend to get better within a day or two. Symptoms among those who got sick are suggestive of norovirus.

Norovirus is a highly contagious virus that frequently spreads person-to-person and is often associated with food. Norovirus illness often has a sudden onset of nausea and vomiting and/or watery diarrhea with cramps. A low-grade fever, chills, and body aches sometimes occur.

Norovirus rarely causes severe complications. Dehydration is the most common complication, particularly among young children and the elderly. No vaccine is available for norovirus.

Public Health  says these measures help reduce the risk of contracting norovirus::

  • Wash hands, cutting boards, and counters used for food preparation immediately after use to avoid cross-contamination of other foods.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap after using the bathroom or changing diapers, and before preparing any food or eating.
  • Wait at least 48 hours after the last episode of vomiting and/or diarrhea before preparing any food for others.

Renton is immediately south of Seattle.  Public Health serves about 2.1 million people in the Seattle metropolitan area.

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