Epidemiology Fun Fact: Disease outbreaks start with seeing an above-average number of cases of illness for a given area and amount of time, but figuring out the cause is not always easy.
A few days ago, Transylvania Public Health in western North Carolina received more than 70 calls from physicians about patients with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, and over 200 calls from individuals reporting similar symptoms.
Last Friday, the health officials announced that the majority of sick individuals who had been tested by their healthcare providers had norovirus, based on results provided by the North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health.
The health department did not identify a specific restaurant involved, but said that many of those with symptoms had visited a local fast food restaurant 1-2 days before falling ill. One local news outlet associated the outbreak with a McDonald’s in Brevard, NC that temporarily closed at the start of the outbreak, though another source said the health department was waiting to have more information before releasing the location. The McDonald’s in question reopened on Friday.
There is thought that the setting, but perhaps not the food, served as the cause of the outbreak . That’s the beauty of norovirus…it can be on food, on hands, or on surfaces, and public spaces are great for providing opportunities for transmission.
We will update this story if more information becomes available.