Seattle-King County Public Health suspects raw oysters as cause of norovirus illnesses

Public Health is investigating an outbreak of norovirus-like illness associated with vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and chills at Il Terrazzo Carmine, an Italian restaurant located at 411 1st Ave S, in Seattle.

Raw oysters are suspected as the likely source of illness.  However,  it is not uncommon for norovirus outbreaks to involve multiple contaminated food items, and environmental surfaces and to spread from person to person.

Since April 4, 2022, 10 people from 3 separate meal parties reported becoming ill after eating food from the Il Terrazzo Carmine on April 2, 2022.   The investigation has not identified any ill employees.

Environmental Health Investigators visited the restaurant on April 5, 2022.    They observed numerous improper food handling practices, including inadequate handwashing, inadequate use of barriers to prevent bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods, lack of temperature controls, and risk of cross-contamination. These violations are also risk factors for the spread of norovirus.

Based on these improper food handling practices, investigators closed the restaurant on April 5, 2022. The restaurant was required to complete a thorough cleaning and disinfection. All ready-to-eat foods processed before the restaurant was disinfected were discarded.

Environmental Health Investigators revisited the restaurant on April 7 to confirm proper cleaning and disinfection. The restaurant was reopened on April 7, 2022.

Investigators reviewed with restaurant management the requirement that ill staff are not allowed to work until they are symptom-free for at least 48 hours and provided education about preventing the spread of norovirus —Investigators reviewed with restaurant management the requirement that ill staff are not allowed to work until they are symptom-free for at least 48 hours and provided education about preventing the spread of norovirus — including proper handwashing and preventing bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods. including proper handwashing and preventing bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods.

 

About norovirus

  • Norovirus is a highly contagious virus that frequently spreads person-to-person and is often associated with food. Norovirus illness often has a sudden onset of nausea and vomiting and/or watery diarrhea with cramps. A low-grade fever, chills, and body aches sometimes occur.
  • Norovirus rarely causes severe complications. Dehydration is the most common complication, particularly among young children and the elderly. No vaccine is available for norovirus.
  • Shellfish such as oysters, clams, and mussels are filter feeders. They ingest norovirus if it is present in the water. Though all shellfish can be a source of norovirus infection if consumed raw or undercooked, oysters are much more commonly consumed raw than other shellfish.
  • For more information see the previous blog post on norovirus and shellfish: Love oysters? Pay attention to this warning, Public Health Insider

General advice for reducing the risk of contracting norovirus:

  • Wash hands, cutting boards, and counters used for food preparation immediately after use to avoid cross-contamination of other foods.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap after using the bathroom or changing diapers, and before preparing any food or eating.
  • Wait at least 48 hours after the last episode of vomiting and/or diarrhea before preparing any food for others.

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