TNT Diner

Another norovirus outbreak closes a Tacoma restaurant

Another suspected norovirus outbreak has sickened diners in Tacoma. The outbreak is connected to Foley’s on the Green, the restaurant and sports bar at the Meadow Park Golf Course in Tacoma at 7108 Lakewood Drive W.

Eight reports have been made for suspected norovirus.

The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department closed Foley's on Thursday for at least 24 hours or until the restaurant is thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.

Jason Follen, owner of the restaurant, said he and his employees were at work Thursday doing just that. They’re also searching for a potential cause for the outbreak.

“They (the health department) didn’t find anything that spoke to an actual cause. We’re at a loss. Obviously, we take our responsibility for it and we apologize. There’s nothing in our history that should make people think this is a representation of what we are,” Follen said.

He said he’s called some of the food-service companies that supply his restaurant to see if outside contamination is possibly to blame.

“I have good employees, and I’m confident that this is just an isolated bad luck incident and we’re just shocked,” said Follen.

The health department also is investigating what might have caused the outbreak.

“We’re in the middle of the investigation now,” said Health Department spokeswoman Edie Jeffers. She said reports came in April 23, 24, and 26.

“We could not determine an illness pattern until the third report, which came today,” the health department wrote in an alert to the public. “The reports are from multiple households. We are still confirming the total and gathering information about the cases.”

The symptoms and pattern of illness are similar to those who are infected with norovirus, a highly contagious pathogen that can live on surfaces for up to two weeks.

“The customers say they got sick after they ate at the food establishment between April 21-23. They experienced symptoms, which include vomiting and diarrhea, 32-44 hours after eating. Their symptoms lasted about a day. The ill customers reported eating a variety of food items. We suspect norovirus to be the pathogen based on the symptoms,” according to the health department alert.

Diners who ate recently at Foley’s on the Green and became ill should contact the health department at food@tpchd.org, file a report online at tpchd.org or call 253-798-4712.

The health department is getting the word out early to stave off secondary infections, said Jeffers. Secondary infections were a problem experienced during a norovirus outbreak at two Tacoma-area El Toro restaurants earlier this year. That outbreak led to about 400 illness reports.

“We’re making a concerted effort to inform as early as possible so people have an opportunity to make that connection,” she said. “That’s why we’re leaning forward really early to make sure people can stop spreading it so we get fewer secondary infections from it.”

A secondary infection in this case means that those who are infected bring norovirus home and spread it easily to the other members of the household. It spreads quickly and is a pathogen that the health department calls “environmentally persistent.”

Symptoms are violent and can include explosive diarrhea and vomiting, sometimes simultaneously. The sickness often is called the “cruise ship virus” because it spreads in close quarters very easily and very quickly.

The good news — if you can call it that — is that while the sickness is horrible to experience, most who suffer from it recover within a few days with no long-term problems. It’s important for those experiencing diarrhea and vomiting to stay as hydrated as possible.

It’s also important that those infected stay home and away from other family members, if possible, and use a diluted bleach solution to sanitize.

The health department recommends a mix of 1-2/3 cups of household bleach to one gallon of water. Allow the solution to make contact with the surface for one minute, the department advises. Steam clean carpets and wash fabrics with hot water. Do not vacuum body fluids. Use kitty litter or something else to absorb them.

Infected people should wash hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds after using the bathroom or before food prep.

As for food-service workers who are ill, the health department advises workers remain home for at least 48 hours after they begin to feel well and then they can return to work.

The health department noted that new state law now allows employees to take paid sick leave.

Sue Kidd: 253-597-8270, @tntdiner
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