More Than 240 Cases of Norovirus Traced to North Carolina Sushi Restaurant

Wim De Gent
By Wim De Gent
December 16, 2023US News
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More Than 240 Cases of Norovirus Traced to North Carolina Sushi Restaurant
(Pixabay)

At least 241 people fell ill with food poisoning after eating at a North Carolina sushi restaurant, local health authorities said Thursday.

Wake County’s Public Health Communicable Disease team said the complaints received all came from people who reported visiting the restaurant between Nov. 28 and Dec. 5.

“Unfortunately, norovirus can spread very easily, especially during the winter months when people come together for holiday gatherings and parties which include a lot of meal prep and catering,” said Wake County Public Health Director Rebecca Kaufman.

“We continue to work closely with customers who visited Sushi Nine, restaurant staff and our partners with NCDHHS to determine the source and extent of the outbreak.”

The restaurant voluntarily closed for deep cleaning on Dec. 5, Wake County officials said. No new complaints have been reported since the restaurant reopened on Dec. 8.

The source of the contamination has not been determined, officials said, as those who fell ill ate various dishes.

Wake County’s Communicable Disease Team was able to interview more than 170 of the complainants so far. All were asked to provide stool samples, the only way to confirm norovirus infection. Only three people provided samples so far but all three came back positive.

NTD Photo
A transmission electron micrograph shows norovirus particles in an undated file photo. (Charles D. Humphrey/US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

The norovirus is the pathogen that causes what is colloquially called food poisoning or stomach flu. It is a contagious virus that is easily transmitted—not just through consuming contaminated food.

Touching contaminated surfaces, or infected people, can transmit the virus onto the hands, and when touching the mouth or the lips, transmit the virus into the body.

In a Friday interview with NBC, the manager of the restaurant, Mac Schreiber, said he believes the norovirus spread from a sick patron who visited the establishment rather than the food.

“We’re pretty confident that it wasn’t the food,” Schreiber said. “We have a reasonable belief that a customer with norovirus dined in the restaurant a few days prior.”

“We continue to work closely with customers who visited Sushi Nine, restaurant staff and our partners with [the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services] to determine the source and extent of the outbreak,” Mr. Kaufman said.

The norovirus is highly contagious and often originates from tainted seafood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infected people spread the virus easily, even several days after recovering from the illness. The virus itself can linger on surfaces for long periods of time.

The virus causes stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea, which can lead to dehydration, especially in young children and the elderly.

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