|Root Simple’s stylish new norovirus shopping bag.|
Kansas State University’s humorously named Barf Blog has been following the story of a norovirus outbreak related to a reusable grocery bag that sickened 13 members of a soccer team. Norovirus, incidentally, is the most common foodborne illness–when you get food poisoning or the “stomach flu,” odds are that it’s probably norovirus.
So should you wash your reusable bags to prevent norovirus? It’s probably a good idea but, according to Barf Blog, there’s not a lot of evidence about the question–just one study on the matter.
In fact it’s not clear if the bag in this 2010 incident was to blame or the fact that the bag, stuffed with food, spent some time on the floor of the bathroom where, “viral particles likely floated over from the toilet.” Yuck! No wonder the Barf Blog folks avoid potlucks.
So how do you dodge norovirus? Food safety professor Doug Powell, writing for Barf Blog has this list of factoids and suggestions:
1. Norovirus can spread infection through contact with surfaces and objects contaminated by aerosolized particles.
2. Noroviruses are highly contagious, even in low concentration, and the viruses spread efficiently from feces and vomit by direct and indirect contact.
3. Noroviruses are the leading cause of endemic diarrheal disease across all age groups, the leading cause of foodborne disease, and the cause of half of all gastroenteritis outbreaks worldwide.
4. Whenever possible, ill persons should use a separate bathroom to reduce the potential for spread of the virus. Notify family members or cleaning staff about the need for thorough disinfection of surfaces.
There goes my business plan for a combination bathroom/salad bar at the airport! But it does seem like washing hands should be a higher priority than washing reusable bags.