October 23, 2021

Minnesota Norovirus Outbreaks Increase Significantly

Minnesota norovirus outbreaks have been increasing “significantly,” in the past few weeks, according to a press release issued by the Minnesota Department of Health. Accordingly, officials are reminding restaurants and other food establishments that ill employees must not work, according to the Minnesota Food Code.

Minnesota Norovirus Outbreaks Increase Significantly

Norovirus is a very contagious foodborne illness that causes vomiting and diarrhea. It is spread through person-to-person contact, through contact with fomites (hard surfaces), and through contaminated food and drink. There was reduced outbreak activity in food establishments during the COVID-19 pandemic, but as restrictions are lifting, so are outbreaks.

To prevent these Minnesota norovirus outbreaks, employees must not work if they are ill with vomiting or diarrhea. They also must stay home from work for at least 24 hours after symptoms end. Employees must also follow handwashing for employees rules. And when preparing ready-to-eat foods such as salads, sandwiches, and fruit, employees must use gloves tongs, or deli tissue. These types of foods should not be handled with bare hands.

The person in charge of the establishment is responsible for taking action in these situations: if a customer contacts the restaurant to complain of illness, this must be reported to the local health inspector or to the Minnesota Department of Health FOodborne Illness Hotline. All ill employees must be excluded from a food establishment while they have diarrhea and/or vomiting. Employees must report to the person in charge if they are suffering from vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes), sore throat with fever, or an open, infected wound.

Further, all employee reports of diarrhea or vomiting, including the onset date, must be recorded in an Employee Illness Log. Employees must also report to the person in charge if they have been diagnosed with norovirus, Salmonella, Shigella, Hepatitis A,  Shiga toxin-producing E coli, or infection with another enteric bacteria, viral, or parasite pathogen. If an employee has been diagnosed with any of those illnesses, the person in charge must notify the local health inspector or the Minnesota Department of Health.

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