The CDC reports that out of the 23 million people who get sick each year from food borne illnesses; almost half of them are blamed on Norwalk viruses. So how do you how to protect yourself?
It was just a quick stop at a McDonalds to grab a bite last winter the following people never dreamed they might picked up a dangerous virus.
Steve Ray explained, "It's just uncontrollable nausea. Even after you've vomited to the point where there is literally nothing left in your system your stomach starts cramping."
Amanda Johnson said, "It almost killed us."
The local hospital in Erwin, Tennessee was flooded with sick people - over 100 people infected with the Norwalk Virus. The Centers for Disease Control says it's likely sick workers at the local McDonalds passed the virus along. But McDonalds says they aren't solely responsible because there were other reports of Norwalk in the area two months before the Erwin outbreak. Dr. Robert Tauxe of the CDC estimates almost half of all food borne illnesses are Norwalk related.
Dr. Robert Tauxe stated, "The Norwalk Virus family has emerged as an important public health problem and Norwalk isn't just linked to restaurants."
There have been outbreaks on cruise ships, schools and nursing homes. It's hard to diagnose but Tauxe says Norwalk can start out like a bad bout of the flu. For some it's a killer. Perhaps several hundred people die each year. Right now there's no cure and it's highly contagions.
Dr. Robert Tauxe, "It's spreading we believe from one person to the next. Or it may be contaminated surfaces."
How do you cut your risk?
Dr. Robert Tauxe says, "Careful handwashing, disinfecting surfaces...and being sure people who are ill are not preparing food for others. And he says if you do get sick. Get checked out by a doctor, before the symptoms get worse."
For more information on the Norwalk virus and other food borne illnesses, (click here).