Norovirus named “Winter vomiting bug”

FSANZ Food Safety experts issue warnings to food businesses of cross contamination risk of winter gastro outbreaks

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As cold temperatures hit the non-tropical areas of Australia, the Food Safety Information Council has issued warnings to the food industry and the general public NOT to prepare food or drinks for others if they have gastroenteritis (gastro).

Norovirus infection causes gastroenteritis (a disease of the stomach and intestines). Norovirus infections are highly contagious and are a leading cause of gastroenteritis in Australia and throughout the world. Outbreaks occur in residential (aged) care facilities, hospitals, schools and child care centres. Outbreaks can occur at any time of the year but are much more common during winter.

Council Chair, Dr Michael Eyles, says that we often associate gastro with bacteria growing in food during our long hot summers but there are also viral gastro outbreaks in the winter months linked to norovirus that can also be transmitted by food.

Illness often begins suddenly about one or two days after exposure to the virus and most people experience several of the following symptoms, which usually last for one to two days:

  • Nauseasick
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Headache
  • Low grade fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches

People with norovirus are infectious for at least three days after the symptoms stop but on some occasions they can still be infectious for up to two weeks after, therefore it is VITALLY important to always practice good hand washing and hygiene practices.

According to the latest Australian Department of Health and Ageing’s OzFoodNet annual report there are usually around 580 reported norovirus outbreaks across Australia in a year. The actual cause of these outbreaks is often difficult to determine but it’s safe to say that poor food hygiene can make the situation worse.

You will reduce your risk of getting norovirus (or spreading it to others if you already have it) by:

  • Frequently washing your hands with soap and warm water and drying thoroughly.
  • Not sharing hand towels with others 
  • Do not put your fingers in your mouth
  • Do not share plates, utensils or drink bottles with others.
  • Do not go to work if you’re unwell
  • Follow good hygiene procedures

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NOTE: The information provided in this blog has been sourced from the FZANZ news bulletin for more information on this topic you can contact Juliana Madden, FSANZ Executive Officer on 0407 626 688.

Of course if you feel that training your staff is even more important now, please contact us on 1800 FOOD SAFETY.

Alternate sources of information include:
Food Standards Australia New Zealand
Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing

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