Health officials: Norovirus spreading in Olmsted County


Update: Olmsted County Public Health officials have received three more reports of foodborne illness that appears to be norovirus. In a typical year, staff only investigates two foodborne illness outbreaks, and in the past two weeks, they’ve been looking five. That level of activity indicates widespread community transmission.

Investigations have begun at additional restaurants and a school in Olmsted County. At this point, they are not releasing the names of the establishments until they can identify a clear link to one or more of the cases.

As we reported earlier this week, public health has been working with management at two Rochester restaurants that so have links to the illness.

“This is a restaurant’s business, so the one thing that restaurants want to do is provide good quality safe food. And our job is to work with them and help them do that and make sure that those systems are in place,” explains Kari Etrheim with Olmsted County Public Health.


OLMSTED CO., Minn. – Olmsted County Public Health Services is seeing an increase in reports of illnesses consistent with norovirus.

In addition to the foodborne outbreaks investigated last week, reports of illness have been received from parents, health care providers and schools, according to a Public Health Services news release. Investigations have begun at restaurants and a school in Olmsted County.

Public Health currently has a total of five ongoing investigations. In an average year, staff investigates two foodborne illness outbreaks. According to the release, this level of activity is uncommon and points to widespread community transmission. Outbreaks occur throughout the year, but 80 percent of them usually happen from November to April, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We say it all the time, but it really is true — washing your hands frequently and thoroughly does help protect from norovirus and many other illnesses,” says Leah Espinda-Brandt, disease prevention and control nurse manager for Olmsted County Public Health Services.

Norovirus is very contagious and can infect anyone. You can get it from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. Norovirus is the most common cause of foodborne illness outbreaks in the United States, and there are about 200 strains that vary from season to season.

The virus causes your stomach, intestines or both to get inflamed, which leads to stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. Symptoms usually resolve themselves in one or two days, but people can still pass the virus on for several days after. It’s spread by eating or drinking contaminated items, or by touching contaminated surfaces or objects followed by putting your hand or fingers in your mouth.

Norovirus can survive on surfaces like toilets, toilet “flush” levers, faucets, door handles, computer keyboards, counter tops, telephones and other objects for several days or weeks.

Health officials urge you to:

  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water
  • Avoid preparing food or caring for others while sick and three days after
  • Stay home from school, work and gatherings when sick
  • Clean and disinfect all surfaces with a bleach solution
  • Immediately and thoroughly wash clothes and linens that may be contaminated with vomit or feces



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