How to keep norovirus and hep A in the restroom and off the menu.
Norovirus and hep A continue to plague foodservice operations. Our understanding of norovirus, the leading cause of foodborne outbreaks, has been hampered by our ability to isolate the pathogen and pursue laboratory research. This void is rapidly being filled by studies conducted at Emory University and North Carolina State.
The Viral Ports of Call. Establish the ill customer and ill employee blockade.
Imagine a blockade to keep virus out of the restaurant, a first line of defense.
What would an effective blocade look like when ill people are coming in the front door as well as the back and sharing such cross-contaminating "Xchange" areas as the restroom (fecal-hand-oral is the primary route of viral-based foodborne illness.)
Zones of intervention can help operators examine their own facility and determine their personal level of risk and pathogen interventions.
This risk-based view helps set realistic hand and surface cleaning practices.
Standards drive an integrated hand-hygiene system. Monitoring of those standards is the restaurant's report card on behaviors, priorities and line management capabilities.
Updates on the studies were recently presented at a conference dedicated to the viral foodservice threat, co-sponsored by the NRA and the Educational Foundation. Presentations included an advanced peek at new synergized formulations from GOJO's laboratories. Results demonstrate that a well-formulated alcohol-based hand sanitizer is an effective norovirus intervention.
Dr. Moe at Emory University finds that norovirus can survive on kitchen and bathroom surfaces for three to six weeks. Her work also indicates that employees who contract norovirus can pose a significant threat of contamination to guests and co-workers for weeks after symptoms disappear.
Ill worker exclusion policies keep out those with symptoms but Dr. Moe's data clearly shows that operators are better served by working as if an unidentified sick employee is working on every shift. These employees showing no symptoms may still shed/excrete the norovirus at highly infectious levels for 20 to 35 days. Handwashing is the first line of defense in breaking the fecal-hand-oral route of contamination.
Combining the fact that ill customers also introduce norovirus into the restaurant as documented by the extensive Cruise Industry data from the CDC, "I don't see a way of getting around having someone with the virus come back into the kitchen," Dr. Moe said.
Dr. Moe also reported that a norovirus vaccine is at an early stage of development but years away.
The vaccine route for controlling hep A is being successfully used in Las Vegas. A graph of results was presented by Jim Mann, Executive Director and Chief Scientific Officer for the Handwashing For Life Institute. A graph of effectiveness is available in his attached presentation.
The restaurant industry, including the Handwashing For Life Institute, favors pre-school innoculation for hep A but the largely immigrant workforce must be taken into account. Restaurants operating in highly endemic areas are encouraged to look closely at the Southern Nevada/Las Vegas program. Mexico is a common source of hep A.
For a more in-depth view of the virus topic, click here for the NRA Virus Conference presentations.