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Kansas: Norovirus confirmed as cause of outbreak that sickened nearly 300

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In a follow-up to a report late last month, Kansas health authorities have confirmed that the outbreak that sickened some 282 people as of Friday was caused by the gastrointestinal bug, norovirus, according to a Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) news release Jan. 6.

Laboratory analysis on patient samples revealed the presence of the virus in several people.

The norovirus outbreak has been linked to a Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches restaurant in Garden City, Kansas.

In addition to laboratory testing, health officials conducted a telephone and an online survey of customers of the popular restaurant as part of the investigation.

What they found was 282 people had reported becoming ill with gastrointestinal symptoms after eating at the restaurant from Dec. 10-24, 2013. Of those, 209 people were ill within 10 to 72 hours of eating with symptoms consistent with norovirus (vomiting and/or diarrhea).

After being inspected twice in December, Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches voluntaily closed from Dec. 24 through Dec. 26 for cleaning and sanitizing. Since reopening on Dec. 27, no new cases of norovirus have been reported.

Norovirus is a highly contagious viral illness that often goes by other names, such as viral gastroenteritis, stomach flu, and food poisoning.

The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and some stomach cramping. Sometimes people additionally have a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and a general sense of tiredness. The illness often begins suddenly, and the infected person may feel very sick. In most people, the illness is self-limiting with symptoms lasting for about 1 or 2 days. In general, children experience more vomiting than adults do.

Norovirus is spread person to person particularly in crowded, closed places. Norovirus is typically spread through contaminated food andwater, touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus and then putting your hand or fingers in your mouth and close contact with someone who is vomiting or has diarrhea.

Norovirus causes more than 20 million illnesses annually, and it is the leading cause of gastroenteritis outbreaks in the United States.

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