The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department gave an update Friday of its investigation into recent, unrelated norovirus outbreaks at two Lakewood restaurants.
The health department’s investigation determined the outbreaks were norovirus.
The department tested restaurant employees and diners who complained of illness. Lab tests for employees and diners came back positive for the virus, which is a particularly nasty pathogen that is highly contagious.
It’s often called the cruise ship disease because it spreads quickly in close quarters. It takes very little of the virus to make a person ill, and symptoms usually manifest in a few hours or within a day or so. The symptoms are vomiting and diarrhea, often at the same time.
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Here’s a recap of the closures of the restaurants:
▪ California Tacos: The restaurant at 14818 Union Ave. SW was closed Feb. 26 after unrelated customers reported norovirus-like symptoms. In all 19 diners and four employees reported illness. Per health department guidelines, the California Tacos staff cleaned and sanitized the restaurant and discarded food and reopened Feb. 27.
▪ Tijuana Taco: The restaurant at 1005 Bristol Ave. SW was closed Feb. 27 after unrelated customers reported symptoms. In all, 46 diners and three employees reported illness. A higher number of ill diners was reported last week by the health department, but the department noted this week, “We determined some of them did not meet the illness case definition.”
Tijuana Taco reopened Feb. 28 after it followed health department guidelines for cleaning and sanitizing and discarding food.
Here are additional findings from the health department regarding both outbreaks.
▪ Unrelated outbreaks: The outbreaks were not related.
“The norovirus outbreaks at California Tacos and Tijuana Taco have no connection. The type of norovirus from the two outbreaks is not the same,” the health department noted.
▪ Employees: The health department identified employees at both restaurants as the suspected sources of the outbreaks in both cases.
“Employees were the source of the outbreak. Their illness onset was before the customers’. The only common link we found among the ill customers was they ate at the restaurant,” according to the health department’s findings.