Stomach Flu or Foodborne Illness?

Do you have a stomach ache, vomiting and diarrhea and a low grade or no fever?  Did one person in your house get sick first then everyone else about 18-36 hours later?

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You tell your friends and family that you have a stomach flu.   What you have is most likely Viral gastroenteritis.  Viral gastroenteritis is caused by excessive bacteria in your intestines.

How does it get there?  It could have been transferred to the food you ate by someone that currently has or recently had a virus. The most common virus affecting food safety in the US is Norovirus.  Norovirus is spread to food when someone does not wash hands properly after using the restroom.  Only a small amount of Norovirus can get you ill.   The incubation period is generally 18-36 hours.    The illness typically lasts a week and most recover without medical attention.  You need to realize that even after feeling better Norovirus can still be in the feces for as much as two weeks.

Call it what you want.  Just remember that it can be spread to ready to eat food when someone with poor personal hygiene touches it.  Protect your customers, your family or your friends when serving food. If you work in a food facility you should NEVER handle or work around food if you have diarrhea or vomiting, go home and stay home for 24 hours after the last “episode”.

If you are a home cook, wash your hands with soapy water before you start cooking.  After cleaning and rinsing surface, use a sanitizing solution of 1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons of chlorine bleach in one gallon of water on all food contact surfaces, knobs for turning water on and sink interior should be sanitized as well.   Use a clean wiping cloth and allow surface to air dry.


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