THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2016

Norovirus leading cause of disease outbreaks from food

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Tuesday that norovirus is the leading cause of disease outbreaks from food contamination.

Most norovirus infections occur in restaurants or other service settings. Infected service workers are a frequent source of outbreaks by touching ready-to-eat foods with their bare hands.

"Norovirus outbreaks from contaminated food in restaurants are far too common," CDC Director Tom Frieden said. "All who prepare food, especially the food service industry, can do more to create a work environment that promotes food safety and ensures that workers adhere to food safety laws and regulations that are already in place."

The CDC examined data from 2009-2012 and found 1,008 norovirus outbreaks nationwide from contaminated food.

Sixty-four percent of the outbreaks began in restaurants, followed by 17 percent in catering or banquet facilities. Four percent of the outbreaks occurred in private residences.

The CDC recommended that food service workers practice proper hand hygiene, including washing and using utensils and disposable gloves when handling ready-to-eat food. Restaurants and other food service establishments were also encouraged to establish policies that require workers to stay home for at least 48 hours if they are sick with vomiting or diarrhea.

Norovirus is highly contagious, and symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea. Approximately 20 million people worldwide contract the virus every year, mostly through contact with other infected people or food.