300 sickened by norovirus at Wild Chef

Krystle Wagner • Jul 21, 2015 at 2:14 PM

For the past week, Ottawa County health officials have worked with staff at the Wild Chef Japanese Steakhouse Grill and Bar, 2863 West Shore Drive in Holland Township, to determine the cause of a norovirus outbreak that sickened about 300 customers.

Some customers who ate at the restaurant in late March came down with symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, stomach pain, headache, fever and body aches.

Kristina Wieghmink, spokeswoman for the Ottawa County Department of Public Health, said Monday that lab results confirmed that the pathogen was norovirus, but they have not yet determined the cause of the outbreak.

“We’re still investigating that,” she said.

Wieghmink said the investigation report will be available within 90 days.

The restaurant met the following requirements set by the health department:

- Cleaned and disinfected all equipment, floors, walls and ceilings.

- Discarded all prepared foods from the establishment.

- All staff completed a food handler’s training program and passed the exam.

- Developed new written policies and procedures; and provided staff with training on proper hand washing, glove use, food preparation practices and reporting illness.

Wieghmink said the restaurant management has worked diligently with its staff to make sure all of the health codes have been met.

“They’ve been very cooperative,” she said.

Wieghmink said they identified the restaurant as the source of a rash of sick diners after many had indicated they ate there before they fell ill. Its doors were closed April 1.

A male Wild Chef employee who declined to give his name said the restaurant passed an inspection on Saturday and had a company professionally sanitize the establishment. The restaurant reopened Monday.

The employee said they are waiting for the health department’s tests to come back to learn more information.

“We don’t know what happened,” he said.

County heath officials are sorting through questionnaire data obtained from people who ate at the restaurant between March 27 and April 1. Wieghmink said more than 400 people completed the survey.

Health officials recommend that people who become sick with norovirus should prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of fluids, and to contact a doctor if they become severely dehydrated.

In order to prevent spreading the illness, afflicted people should stay home, practice proper hand hygiene, and clean any contaminated areas with a chlorine bleach solution by mixing one-quarter cup bleach with a gallon of water.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website states that norovirus causes about 20 million cases of inflamed stomach or intestines each year, leading to about 1.8 million outpatient visits and 400,000 emergency room visits.

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