A popular internet crowdsourcing website has come forward this weekend in an effort to help identify an outbreak of Norovirus in Weston, Wisconsin. The Marathon County Health Department has since launched an investigation into the illnesses. The agency has confirmed nineteen illnesses of Norovirus infection are linked to the franchised Weston, Wisconsin Jimmy John’s location.
The Norovirus Outbreak Details
Local media outlets report that the crowdsourcing website, iwaspoisoned.com, represents to have received eight reports alleging foodborne illness from the same Jimmy John’s location in Weston, Wisconsin. The eight reports are among the 19 confirmed illnesses related to the outbreak, according to media reporting. The earliest of the reports to the health department came in on or about April 7, 2017. It is also reported that one of the victims alleges needing medical attention and treatment from his doctor for Norovirus.
An investigation has been launched concerning the outbreak, and the location was closed for a few hours this week for sanitization. According to the agency’s Health and Safety Director Dale Grosskurth, “We have received some complaints and are doing follow-up… It’s a full investigation.” Director Grosskurth did not mention if more illnesses are expected, but mentioned that the investigation may take several weeks. It is likely that the agency is testing food samples and specimens from the victims through the state’s health laboratory. In the meantime, the agency will conduct interviews of the victims to determine similar food sources. Director Grosskurth confirmed the agency’s interviews will focus on “[f]ind[ing] out what foods they ate, symptoms they experienced. When did they eat? When did their symptoms start?” He further added, “We want to identify the factors that contributed to it. Whether its [sic] the food, employee behavior or something else.”
The Marathon County Health Department officials confirmed the franchised location has been cooperative in the inspection and subsequent investigation. “Do the cleaning and disinfection,” says Director Grosskurth, “Cooperated by getting rid of food that was prepared ahead of time.” Even with the outbreak and pending investigation, Director Grosskurth endorses the location is “safe to eat at.”
The franchise confirmed the agency’s sentiments of cooperation. According to the franchise’s owner, Brian Macak,
“Food quality is our top priority and drives every decision we make. The Department of Health inspected our store on Friday following a handful of complaints about one delivery, but they found no food hygiene issues at the store. Regardless, we voluntarily closed our store for a few hours yesterday afternoon to deep clean all of the equipment... The Department of Health is continuing its investigation and we are working closely with them to provide any information required.”
Norovirus is one of the most common forms of food poisoning along with Salmonella. It spreads quickly. This means there is no vaccine. It is highly probable that a person will suffer from the infection multiple times throughout their lives. The Marathon County Health Department has offered some information on Norovirus and its symptoms in light of the outbreak:
“Norovirus is a virus that causes vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramping. Norovirus is often incorrectly referred to as “the stomach flu”; however, norovirus illness is not related to the flu (influenza), which causes respiratory symptoms. Norovirus causes approximately 20 million illnesses each year in the United States. Anyone can get norovirus infection and become sick. There are many different types of noroviruses; having a norovirus infection once does not mean you will not get it again during your lifetime.”
The classic symptoms of Norovirus infection include:
- watery (non-bloody) diarrhea
- stomach cramps
There may also be additional symptoms of:
- muscle aches
These symptoms usually show within 12 to 48 hours after exposure to contaminated foods, beverages, or surfaces. The virus is typically transmitted orally.
Treatment for Norovirus is usually supportive in nature, such as drinking plenty of liquids to replace fluid loss from throwing up and diarrhea. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warn that victims of Norovirus infection are prone to dehydration. According to the CDC website:
“If you have norovirus illness, you can feel extremely ill and throw up or have diarrhea many times a day. This can lead to dehydration, especially in young children, older adults, and people with other illnesses.
Symptoms of dehydration—
- decrease in urination
- dry mouth and throat
- feeling dizzy when standing up
Children who are dehydrated may cry with few or no tears and be unusually sleepy or fussy.”
How Can I Keep My Family Safe?
Norovirus is everywhere, in food, on door knobs, even on surfaces. The infection is easily spread from person to person – usually through cross-contamination or by contact with an infected person’s stool or vomit. An infected person’s hands are especially prone to the spread of the illness. As Norovirus can survive on surfaces for up to fourteen days (although it is argued it can survive longer), constant cleaning is crucial.
To avoid the spread of the infection and the outbreak, the Marathon County Health Department recommends:
“Anyone with diarrhea or vomiting should stay home from work or school until symptoms are gone in order to prevent spreading norovirus to others.
People with diarrhea or who are vomiting should not handle food, work in or attend day care centers or schools, or take care of patients in a health care facility until 48 hours after their symptoms are gone.”
Handwashing is also a good method of prevention of the spread of Norovirus.
For more information about the benefits of handwashing, Norovirus, and tips to reduce the risk of foodborne illness, you can visit our food safety blog at www.unsafefoods.com
What Can You Do?
If you or someone you love recently ate at Jimmy John’s in Weston, Wisconsin, and became ill, medical attention is recommended during this outbreak. It is encouraged to report any illnesses or related issues stemming from this outbreak.
Robins Cloud LLP is Helping Victims of this Outbreak
Robins Cloud LLP is a Plaintiffs’ firm dedicated to helping those who have become ill from contaminated food or beverages. We will continue to follow and investigate the details of this outbreak. If you or someone in your family has become ill after eating at Jimmy Johns in Weston Wisconsin, Robins Cloud LLP is available to discuss any questions, concerns, and the legal process with you. You can contact us 24 hours a day, seven days a week for a free, no obligation consultation.