State health officials in Minnesota are urging the public, especially foodservice workers, to take precautions against norovirus because of a rise in infections in recent weeks.

On June 14, the Minnesota Department of Health posted a notice alerting the public and foodservice operators such as restaurant owners about the uptick in cases. 

The notice said that norovirus is a very contagious foodborne virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea. The increase comes after a time of reduced outbreak activity in food establishments during the pandemic.

Norovirus can be spread by microscopic particles of feces or vomit from an infected person. The virus can float in the air for long periods of time and can easily live on hard surfaces.

Various ways to become infected and sick from norovirus include:

  • Eating food or drinking liquids that became contaminated with norovirus because they were prepared or touched by a person ill with norovirus;
  • Touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus and then you touch your face or mouth; or
  • Having direct contact with someone who is infected with norovirus, such as by caring for them or sharing food or utensils with them.

The health department gave some tips to restaurant owners and cafeteria operators to avoid the spread of foodborne illness among their employees and prevent outbreaks among customers. These precautions included employees not working if they are ill or vomiting with diarrhea and staying home for at least 24 hours after the symptoms stop; following Handwashing for Employees procedures and washing hands often; and using gloves, tongs, deli tissue, or other tools to handle or prepare ready-to-eat foods like salads, sandwiches, and fruit.