More norovirus reports prompt new investigation in northern Ind.

Several people in Hartford City reported symptoms associated with the stomach flu or food poisoning after eating from a local restaurant.

Valparaiso, Ind.

Days after the Indiana State Department of Health began investigating a viral outbreak in Hartford City, a new investigation launched this week in Valparaiso following a series of foodborne illness reports.

Several people in Hartford City reported symptoms associated with the stomach flu or food poisoning after eating from a local restaurant.

The Blackford County Health Department began working with state epidemiologists to pinpoint a cause. State Epidemiologist Pam Pontones told Fox59 the symptoms are consistent with viral gastroenteritis. The most common type of that virus is called the norovirus.

Now, an investigation is underway into a restaurant in Valparaiso. According to Food Safety News, approximately 60 area residents suffered from nausea, vomiting and indigestion.  The web-based newspaper reported a train crashed near Valparaiso last Friday.  The Red Cross provided meals for the rescue workers, which was partly catered by Jimmy John’s. Two days later, the Porter County Health Department received reports that approximately 20 of those workers were sick.

The online newspaper reported by Monday, several other people who were not involved in the crash, reported they became ill after eating at the sandwich restaurant.  Due to the two instances, the Indiana State Department of Health declared the restaurant a possible source of the norovirus illness.

In a statement to Food Safety News, the health department said they are not ruling out other food sources at this time, although it does appear Jimmy John’s was likely the source.

However, the health department did not confirm to Fox59 on Friday if it was Jimmy John’s.  Health officials referred to the place as a restaurant, but they did not specify which one. 

Norovirus is a highly contagious illness.  Those infected experience symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain.  Most people are able to recover after a couple of days.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the following tips to prevent spreading and contracting the virus:

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. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers (containing at least 62% ethanol) may be a helpful addition to hand washing, but they are not a substitute for washing with soap and water. See “Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives.”

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 who are infected with norovirus should not prepare food for others while they have symptoms and for 3 days after they recover from their illness.

Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces: After an episode of illness, such as vomiting or diarrhea, immediately clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces by using a bleach-based household cleaner as directed on the product label or a solution made by adding 5–25 tablespoons of household bleach to 1 gallon of water.

Wash laundry thoroughly: Immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may be contaminated with vomit or fecal matter. Handle soiled items carefully—without agitating them—to avoid spreading virus. They should be laundered with detergent at the maximum available cycle length and then machine dried.