December 30, 2010
Missoulians have experienced the stomach flu that's been going
around lately. But what many of you may not realize is
that the "bug" disrupting everyone's holiday season is probably
not a flu at all. Flus primarily affect your respiratory
system, and while stomach upset can occur, it is not common.
When symptoms predominately affect your gastrointestinal system,
it is most likely from something you ate or drank-- a foodborne
illness; however, Norovirus, a common culprit of the 24-hour
stomach flu, is particularly sneaky and resilient. Not
only can you get it it from consuming contaminated foods and
beverages, but also contaminated surfaces and others who are
Here are some pointers on how to stay healthy in the peak of
Norovirus season, and things you must keep in mind as a licensed
1. The key with Norovirus is hand
washing and hygiene. Norovirus is not a pathogen
you can guard yourself and others against by using temperature
and time control. Washing hands with warm water and soap
for 20 seconds is your best line of defense. Use paper
towels to dry your hands. Use the same paper towel to turn
off the water and, if applicable, to open bathroom doors.
Make sure that you are aware of any contaminated surfaces your
hands may touch and wash when needed. Make sure that all
food workers not only wash in the bathroom after using the
facilities, but also at the designated hand sink in the kitchen.
2. Minimize exposure to those with vomiting and diarrhea.
Norovirus is extremely contagious and it doesn't take much to
3. If you are sick and work at a food establishment, you
cannot work until 48 hours after your symptoms clear. As
mentioned before, Norovirus is highly contagious. One food
worker has the potential to exposure his/her coworkers as well
as numerous customers if they work when infected. Think of
how a Norovirus outbreak can affect your customers and business.
One short-handed shift is better than taking the risk.
4. If you have a situation where you think your
establishment may have been affected by Norovirus, call the
Health Department for assistance. There are ways to clean
and sanitize to reset for business, and specific areas we can
help you concentrate on. It is also important to contact
us because not all cleaning chemicals will be affective against
it. You don't want all of your hard efforts to go to
waste. For instance, the Quat-based sanitizers many of you
use are not recognized as being effective, and the
concentrations of bleach in your sani buckets is no where near
strong enough to do any good. Please let us help you!
This is what we are here for!
5. The illness is what we call "self-limiting" meaning
that the illness should resolve on its own without treatment.
Since this is a virus, antibiotics will not help, but if
concerned about how it may affect you, please consult a health
care professional, especially if you are considered to be highly