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Preventing Norovirus Outbreaks

Food service industry can help prevent norovirus outbreaks

Most norovirus outbreaks from contaminated food occur in food service settings, according to a Vital Signs report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infected food workers are frequently the source of these outbreaks, often by touching ready-to-eat foods served in restaurants with their bare hands.  The report provides some key recommendations to help the food service industry prevent norovirus outbreaks from contaminated food, including certifying kitchen managers in food safety, making sure food service workers practice proper hand washing and avoid touching ready-to-eat foods with their bare hands, and having sick workers stay home until 48 hours after feeling better.

  • What: Norovirus is the leading cause of disease outbreaks from contaminated food in the United States.
  • How: Food workers infected with norovirus cause about 70 percent of reported norovirus outbreaks from contaminated food, often by touching ready-to-eat foods served in restaurants with their bare hands.
  • Who: The food service industry can help prevent norovirus outbreaks by enforcing food safety practices, such as making sure workers always practice good hand hygiene on the job and stay home when they are sick. 

The report also highlights the key role health departments play in investigating and reporting norovirus outbreaks and the need to continue to build their capacity to do so more thoroughly. Learn more about norovirus and CDC’s norovirus surveillance efforts.

Graphics / Images

  • Infographic: About 20 million people get sick from #norovirus each year, most from close contact with infected people or by eating contaminated food.

    About 20 million people get sick from norovirus each year, most from close contact with infected people or by eating contaminated food.

  • Infographic: Norovirus is the #1 cause of outbreaks from contaminated food in the US.

    Norovirus is the #1 cause of outbreaks from contaminated food in the US.

  • Infographic: Infected food workers cause about 70% of reported number of norovirus outbreaks from contaminated food.

    Infected food workers cause about 70% of reported number of norovirus outbreaks from contaminated food.

  • Cerca de 20 millones de personas se enferman a causa de los norovirus cada año, la mayoría debido al contacto cercano con personas infectadas o por comer alimentos contaminados.

    Cerca de 20 millones de personas se enferman a causa de los norovirus cada año, la mayoría debido al contacto cercano con personas infectadas o por comer alimentos contaminados

  • Los norovirus son la principal causa de brotes de enfermedades por alimentos contaminados en los EE. UU.

    Los norovirus son la principal causa de brotes de enfermedades por alimentos contaminados en los EE. UU.

  • Los trabajadores infectados de la industria de alimentos causan cerca del 70 % de los brotes de norovirus por alimentos contaminados que se reportan.

    Los trabajadores infectados de la industria de alimentos causan cerca del 70 % de los brotes de norovirus por alimentos contaminados que se reportan.

  • Infographic: Just a very small amount of norovirus on your food or your hands can make you sick. The amount of virus particles that fit on the head of a pin would be enough to infect more than 1,000 people.

    Just a very small amount of norovirus on your food or your hands can make you sick. The amount of virus particles that fit on the head of a pin would be enough to infect more than 1,000 people.
    Entire infographic

  • Infographic: Most norovirus outbreaks from contaminated food occur in food service settings like restaurants.

    Most norovirus outbreaks from contaminated food occur in food service settings like restaurants.
    Entire infographic

  • Infographic: Enforcing food safety practices in the food service industry can help prevent #norovirus outbreaks.

    Enforcing food safety practices in the food service industry can help prevent norovirus outbreaks.
    Entire infographic

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Tom Frieden, MD, MPH

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Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH

Norovirus outbreaks from contaminated food in restaurants are far too common. All who prepare food, especially the food service industry. can do more to create a work environment that promotes food safety and ensures that workers adhere to food safety laws and regulations that are already in place.

Tom Frieden, MD, MPH - Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Dr. Aron Hall, DVM, MSPH, DACVPM

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Photo: Dr. Aron Hall, DVM, MSPH, DACVPM

About 20 million people get sick with norovirus each year in the US, resulting in an estimated 56,000 to 71,000 hospitalizations and up to 800 deaths. Norovirus is the leading cause of disease outbreaks from contaminated food, most occurring in food service settings. CDC collaborates closely with state and local health departments to improve understanding of norovirus outbreaks, where they occur and how to prevent them.

Dr. Aron Hall, DVM, MSPH, DACVPM - Epidemiologist, Viral Gastroenteritis Team, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases

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