SLO County Public Health Epidemiologist Jessie Burmester stated that the investigation focused on identifying a common source or exposure point. The name of the restaurant was consistently provided by individuals reporting illness among the 97 affected individuals.
The Public Health Department declared an outbreak after receiving two separate reports from different households on May 15. Further investigation revealed that some individuals had experienced symptoms as early as May 11.
Upon identification of the source, the Public Health Department took immediate action to contain the spread of the virus. The restaurant underwent three rounds of extensive cleaning and disinfection, while efforts were made to track the origin of the cases.
Burmester acknowledged the challenges posed by this particular outbreak but emphasized that norovirus is known for its rapid spread, requiring only a minimal amount of the virus to cause infection. Norovirus outbreaks are relatively common, with approximately 2,500 occurrences reported annually in the United States, affecting between 18 million and 21 million individuals, according to Burmester.
The virus, often associated with cruise ships, spreads through the ingestion of contaminated fecal matter or vomit. It can also be transmitted via contact with contaminated surfaces or through food.
Symptoms of norovirus typically manifest within 12 to 48 hours after exposure and include vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and stomach pain. Fortunately, most cases resolve within two days without medical intervention. Individuals suspected of having norovirus are advised to stay hydrated and stay home from work.
To prevent the spread of the virus, it is crucial to practice thorough handwashing with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. The Public Health Department is currently monitoring several other potential norovirus outbreaks, although no additional cases have been confirmed at this time.