More than 280 cases of norovirus were reported in Garden City during a two week period in December. Victims of the gastrointestinal illness experienced nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea and low-grade fever, according to a report from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Norovirus is easily spread from person-to-person and through food that may have been contaminated during preparation by someone with the norovirus or if a food preparation area wasn’t properly cleaned where an infected person may have been.
How sad to have the actions of one person — perhaps even a well-intentioned employee of the restaurant — pass an illness on to nearly 300 people during the holiday season, presumably because he or she didn’t wash his or her hands and/or stay home from work. If it can happen at a Garden City fast food restaurant, it certainly can happen here too.
The norovirus first was detected and identified at the Kansas Health and Environmental Laboratories in clinical specimens from three people associated with the outbreak following the Dec. 18 report. The county’s health department and KDHE representatives then began to contact diners via telephone and online surveys to determine the scope of the outbreak. Once the source was identified, the Kansas Department of Agriculture inspected the restaurant, which voluntarily closed for three days for a special cleaning and disinfecting procedure.
Common norovirus symptoms, which resemble an intense flu, include nausea and vomiting, fever and chills, migraine headaches, stomach cramps, sore muscles, dark urine from a lack of hydration, a dry and parched mouth and an increased heart rate from possible dehydration. It is important to recognize these symptoms individually as well as in coworkers and others people come in contact with during their day.
Going to work sick or not following proper hand-washing procedures in the food preparation business can have extensive collateral damage on people, especially infants, senior citizens and pregnant women, who can be weakened and even killed by a violent illness of this nature.
While a sick person might feel guilty because of not going to work — and consequently expecting coworkers to pick up the slack — it is far worse to go work and make everyone else — from coworkers to customers and others without a strong immune system — sick in the process.
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