DOH Investigates Possible Cases of Norovirus on Oahu’s North Shore

April 14, 2011, 11:05 PM HST · Updated April 15, 6:54 AM
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The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) is investigating a possible norovirus outbreak among patrons who apparently ate at a restaurant in Haleiwa on O’ahu. Health officials were first notified on Tuesday, April 12 regarding a vomiting and diarrhea illness among participants of a sporting event held on Oahu’s North Shore on Sunday, April 10. Others who were in Haleiwa, but not related to the sporting event, reported similar symptoms. All of the cases being investigated involve people who had eaten at the same restaurant at some point during the weekend

The DOH has received and is investigating a total of 42 reports of illness. Ten stool specimens have been collected for testing; norovirus has been identified in one, one is negative, and testing for eight is pending.

A thorough department investigation of food sources related to the weekend event includes inquiry at Cholo’s Homestyle Mex, Wailua High School All Sports Boosters, Boy Scouts Troop 117, and the Hawaii Bicycling League. All of the facilities and organizations have proper food permits.

“These organizations and business were all very concerned about any public health issues and were extremely helpful in getting the investigation done thoroughly,” said Peter Oshiro, Environmental Health Program Manager. “They all showed a true concern for the situation, and worked right away to prevent any further illness.”

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At the time of the inspection on April 12 at 2:45 p.m., Cholo’s Homestyle Mex restaurant voluntarily closed to customers and began disinfection of all surfaces throughout the facility. Floors and walls of the restaurant and all restrooms were sanitized. DOH staff supervised a complete clean-up, including food disposal, single service article disposal, and disinfection of all hard surfaces and multi-use utensils. The final inspection by DOH was completed at 7:45 p.m. and no violations were cited. The restaurant reopened on April 13. The DOH revisited the facility today to reinforce personal hygiene, cross-contamination prevention, and proper sanitizing of equipment and utensils. A follow-up inspection will be conducted in one week.

Waialua High School All Sports Boosters, Boy Scouts Troup 117, and the Hawaii Bicycling League served various food items during the weekend sporting event. The DOH inspection did not uncover any concern for the items they prepared and provided to the public.

Symptoms of a norovirus infection are similar to many other food-borne illnesses. They usually include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. The symptoms usually begin 24 to 48 hours after eating or drinking contaminated items (or touching a contaminated surface or object and then placing your hand or the object in your mouth). Symptoms usually last one or two days. Any person can become infected by the virus; there are many different strains of norovirus and people do not develop long lasting immunity. Dehydration can be a problem among some people with norovirus infection, especially the very young, the elderly and people with other illnesses. Norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the United States.

Food establishments and other facilities can prevent the spread of norovirus by excluding ill workers for at least three days after their symptoms have ended; ensure workers wash hands frequently; minimize bare hand contact; and clean and sanitize all food contact surfaces.

*** Information courtesy Hawai’i State Department of Health.

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