CDC Report: Norovirus More Common than You Think

b_250_0_16777215_00_images_obgrabber_2014-06_90be0ee0a9.jpgIngram Publishing/Thinkstock (WASHINGTON) -- Norovirus, while commonly associated with cruise ships, is much more prevalent than most people think, according to a new report out Tuesday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health officials say the illness is responsible for nearly half -- 48 percent -- of all of the country’s foodborne outbreaks and sickens 20 million Americans each year.

But, as the report finds, foodborne outbreaks involving norovirus are not caused by the food itself. Rather, they are caused by food handlers who carry the infection themselves and spread it through unhygienic practices like coming to work while sick and not washing their hands adequately.

What may be even more interesting about this foodborne bug is that norovirus is not restricted to any type of food in particular. In fact, all types of food can potentially be affected, as more than 90 percent of contamination of food with norovirus happens in the last food handling step.

“Norovirus is one tough bug,” noted CDC Director Tom Frieden, who added that although norovirus is called “food poisoning,” the illness actually comes from people -- that is, from infected food workers who come into contact with food.

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