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Investigation into suspected norovirus at popular family restaurant

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Health officials are investigating what may be an outbreak of the norovirus at a popular Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in Maple Grove. Victims of the outbreak include both children and adults. None of those sickened have so far required hospitalization.

Norovirus infection can cause cramping, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Other, less common, symptoms may include low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and general sense of fatigue.

The virus is extremely contagious and easily transmitted from person-to-person.

Anyone with similar symptoms who may have eaten at the Chuck E Cheese is asked to call the Hennepin County Health Department at 612-543-5230.

KARE 11 is reporting the health department learned of the possible outbreak after several people called, reporting becoming sick with gastrointestinal illness after eating at the restaurant over the weekend.

Investigators suspect that someone, perhaps a customer, came into the restaurant already having norovirus and spread it to others. Officials told KARE they identified and contacted customers with symptoms of the illness by looking through cash register receipts.

They are also inspecting the restaurant food prep and food handling areas, and checking with employees to see if any of them are sick with norovirus symptoms.

The CDC says most norovirus illness is not serious. Most people get better in one to three days.

But norovirus illness can be serious in young children, the elderly, and people with other health conditions. For vulnerable people, the virus can lead to severe dehydration, hospitalization and even death.

The norovirus has notoriously sickened passengers on several cruise ships in recent years.

According to the CDC, norovirus is actually a group of related viruses which cause inflammation of the stomach and intestines. This leads to stomach cramping, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Officials estimate around 19 to 21 million cases of acute gastroenteritis each year are caused by noroviruses.

That means about one in every 15 Americans will get norovirus illness each year.

Norovirus is also estimated to cause 56,000 to 71,000 hospitalizations and 570 to 800 deaths each year in the United States.

Health officials say taking simple precautions can prevent the spread of illness:

Practice proper hand hygiene

Wash your hands carefully with soap and water, especially after using the toilet and changing diapers and always before eating or preparing food. If soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. These alcohol-based products can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, but they are not a substitute for washing with soap and water.

Take care in the kitchen

Carefully wash fruits and vegetables, and cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating them.

Do not prepare food while infected

People with norovirus illness should not prepare food for others while they have symptoms and for 3 days after they recover from their illness. (see For Food Handlers: Norovirus and Working with Food)

Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces

After throwing up or having diarrhea, immediately clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces by using a bleach-based household cleaner as directed on the product label. If no such cleaning product is available, you can use a solution made with 5 tablespoons to 1.5 cups of household bleach per 1 gallon of water.

Wash laundry thoroughly

Immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may be contaminated with vomit or stool. Handle soiled items carefully—without agitating them—to avoid spreading virus. If available, wear rubber or disposable gloves while handling soiled clothing or linens and wash your hands after handling. The items should be washed with detergent at the maximum available cycle length and then machine dried.

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