Sugarcoated sadness: Norovirus outbreak temporarily closes a donut shop in Ohio – NoroCORE Food Virology

Sugarcoated sadness: Norovirus outbreak temporarily closes a donut shop in Ohio

Photo of assorted donuts by AmyLovesYah on Flickr.

It seems unfair to have a norovirus outbreak associated with such a delectable treat, but noroviruses aren’t interested in propriety or property, after all.

Last Tuesday, on August 8th, a coffee and donut shop in Ohio voluntarily closed for a deep cleaning after reports of patrons becoming ill. Donuts supplied by the shop to other local establishments were also investigated and pulled off the shelves out of caution.

In just a few days, almost 400 cases had been reported to the county health department, which worked with the restaurant to investigate and contain the outbreak. Most of those who were sick had eaten at the coffee shop from August 4th – 7th. Some of the cases were secondary, or thought to have been from interacting with people who had contracted the virus from the restaurant. Three samples sent to the Ohio Department of Health tested positive for norovirus. Thankfully, the rate of new cases has been slowing, and the shop reopened yesterday.

There has not been any information yet as to how the virus might have been introduced to the restaurant (such as an infected employee, a sick child vomiting in the shop’s restroom, contaminated water or ingredients, etc.), and we will update this post if we learn more.

Norovirus outbreaks associated with baked goods do happen on occasion, such as one we blogged about last year. In these situations, it has tended to be baked items that have had additional preparation or handling after they have come out of the oven (since the heat should kill the virus), such as during icing. There is a great case study (academically speaking, we have nothing against bakeries or weddings) about a series of cakes made by a single, busy bakery for dozens of weddings over a weekend that led to numerous nuptual norovirus outbreaks. When investigators realized not all of the cakes were associated with disease, despite the cakes and the icings all being the same, they looked deeper and found it was related to a hand-prepared strawberry filling that had gone into some of them, and a couple of the staff had been sick that week with norovirus-like illness.

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