Wednesday April 23, 2014

Restaurant linked to norovirus cases

Downtown eatery closed for disinfection

A downtown restaurant is getting scrubbed and bleached into the nooks and crannies after it was associated with several cases of norovirus, including an outbreak at Royal Inland Hospital.

Medical health officer Dr. Rob Parker said Dorian Greek House catered to hospital operating room staff more than a week ago. About 40 employees came down sick at mid-week, leading to the postponement of 26 surgeries on Thursday and Friday.

The restaurant was notified and staff believed it was on top of the problem when a group of 15 held a Christmas party there Friday night. By Sunday, nine of them were sick.

Parker said Monday it was thought there were safeguards in place in terms of cleaning and disinfecting, and standard practice if people come down sick.

“But this morning, we heard of another work group who ate there Friday who came down with norovirus symptoms on Sunday,” he said.

Meanwhile, lab tests confirmed norovirus in samples from three of the hospital staff.

Parker said public health met with the restaurant owners again Monday and went over procedures again.

“Because we had this second group, it obviously was still problematic there,” he said.

Late Monday afternoon, just after having that discussion, the owners agreed to close the restaurant to do an entire top-to-bottom cleaning and make sure any sick staff were taking enough recovery time.

“They’ll be closed until we’re satisfied they are clean and safe to open,” said Parker.

“He doesn’t want anyone getting sick from his restaurant.”

Dorian co-owner Diane Dokolas said she and her husband Jim are doing their best to stop the norovirus spread.

“We’re not sure what happened. We did have a couple of staff members who had gotten sick and didn’t realize what it was,” she said.

They may have come back to work too soon, she added.

“When we were first made aware of it, we had been bleaching our surfaces, menus, railings, door handles. But it just seems to be snowballing. We’re at a loss.

“We’re doing a complete clean. Everything is soaking in bleach at the moment.”

The closure comes at the busiest time of the year for the restaurant, with a list of Christmas parties and take-out orders for catering.

“We do apologize. We definitely didn’t want this to happen to everybody. We definitely did not mean to create the problem,” Dokolas said.

Parker said public health wants to make sure the restaurant staff know they have to be off work for 48 hours after their symptoms subside to ensure they aren’t spreading norovirus.

The virus is the commonest cause of community gastro-intestinal illness. There’s no vaccine, but most people recover within a few days.

Symptoms can include low-grade fever, vomiting, diarrhea and nausea.

If anyone does get sick with those symptoms, there’s no need to contact public health — just stay home and get better, he said.

If a senior or young child has norovirus symptoms but is getting severely dehydrated or is extremely ill, he advised seeking medical attention.

Norovirus can be spread on surfaces, so even touching the same tap or sink as someone who is sick could do it.

“It is a common virus. Even diligent senior care homes, parents or restaurants, sometimes it’ll affect your environment.”

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