At Least 30 Norovirus Cases Linked to Fiesta Mexicana restaurant in Red Wing, MN
At least 30 confirmed norovirus cases have been linked to the outbreak; however, MDOH has received approximately 50 food poisoning complaints from diners. According to some media accounts, the investigation was launched after those complaints were received.
The complaints came from people who ate at the restaurant between April 7th and April 9th.
Health Department Discovers Potential Sources of Outbreak; Provides Restaurant with Additional Training
“Environmental health sanitarians investigating the restaurant” discovered that a number of employees returned to work only a short period of time after they recovered from an illness.
Investigators also noted that restaurant employees regularly handled some uncooked foods, such as chips and salsa, without gloves.
Employees from the Minnesota Department of Health chose not to take the punitive route, instead electing to work with the restaurant to improve food handling practices. In addition, MDOH employees reinforced the need to thoroughly clean and sanitize food preparation areas, and worked with Fiesta Mexicana employees to improve their skills at doing so.
Restaurant Remains Open; No Plans Plans for Increased Official Inspections
The restaurant remains open, and has no plans to temporarily close for more intense cleaning processes. Amy Saupe, a foodborne disease epidemiologist with the Minnesota Department of Health, said that the restaurant had taken appropriate measures to intervene in the norovirus outbreak.
“If we thought it wasn’t safe,” Saupe said, “we wouldn’t let it open.”
The outbreak has not led to additional inspections at other area restaurants, indicated Doug Schultz, information officer with MDOH. Inspectors may, however, discuss norovirus concerns with restaurant staffs, he said, further elaborating that
“If inspectors are at other restaurants, they are there likely as part of regular inspection duties. However, they may be taking extra time to talk to operators about how to prevent norovirus in their establishments.”
Schultz also discussed the advantages of talking to restaurant managers about restrictions on ill employees and critical food handling practices. Both are always part of the routine inspection process.
Norovirus: Symptoms & Treatment
Biologically, norovirus consists of inflamed stomach and/or intestines of the sick individual, a condition called “acute gastroenteritis.” The most common symptoms of norovirus are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain.
Other common symptoms that are seen less frequently than those listed above are fever, headache, and bodyaches.
The onset of norovirus symptoms typically occurs 12 to 48 hours after exposure to the virus. The majority of people who fall ill with the virus get better within 1 to 3 days.