Doctor discusses dangers of Norovirus infection, ways to prevent it

Doctor discusses dangers of Norovirus infection, ways to prevent it

POOLER, GA (WTOC) - Jalapenos Mexican Restaurant on Morgan's Corner Road in Pooler is still closed temporarily following a possible Norovirus outbreak.

The Chatham County Health Department says at least 80 people complained of getting sick after eating there.

Norovirus is actually the most common type of food poisoning nationwide. It accounts for about 400,000 Emergency Room visits each year as well as more than one million doctor visits.

"Just a very sore stomach that lasted over a week," Caitlyn Huls said.

Huls is one of the people who got sick after eating at the restaurant. She realized something was wrong when her five-month-old son woke up with an upset stomach.

"Thought that was weird, then later that day, he had more of it, so I figured he had a stomach ache," she said.

Then, Huls saw the posts on Facebook about other people getting sick, and she realized there might be more to it.

"It turned into a pretty big deal," she said.

The restaurant agreed to close down and undergo a serious cleaning. The Health Department is waiting to see what exactly caused the outbreak.

Dr. Steve Carpenter is the Chair of Medicine at Memorial Health. He says Norovirus tends to be prevalent in leafy vegetables and fresh fruits. The common food poisoning virus is passed through oral or fecal matter. Two things make it hard to fight. One is that it's freeze resistant.

"If you take, for example, shrimp out of a freezer - if the Norovirus is on there - it wouldn't protect it. Alcohol does not kill the Norovirus. Typical hand sanitizer will not eliminate a risk for Norovirus," Dr. Carpenter said.

Dr. Carpenter says the best thing to do is wash your hands with soap and water before and after you handle food.

"Furthermore, when you buy produce anywhere, when you get it home, you need to wash that produce off. If you get seafood, you need to wash it off and get it as clean as you possibly can prior to preparation," he said.

Common symptoms of the virus include vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, fever, and body aches.

Huls says she and her family will likely go back, provided the restaurant undergoes a deep cleaning and educational session with employees. She doesn't share a lot of the negative sentiments seen on social media.

"Things happen. I'm sure we'll go back. It's not the end of the world. Yeah, it sucks that we were sick, but again, it happens," she said.

When it comes to a Norovirus infection, the very young, the elderly, and anyone with a compromised immune system are the most at-risk. Unfortunately, once you get it, there is not much you can do to get rid of it besides let it pass.

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