Lawsuit filed in norovirus-linked fatality

Foodborne norovirus is linked to around 5.5 million illnesses a year and costs the U.S. around $3 billion annually. Fortunately most of the cases result in a couple of days of really bad vomiting or diarrhea – but usually not deaths (an estimated 150 annually).

According to Oregon Live, a 2013 norovirus outbreak at Maggie’s Buns may have resulted in a unique and tragic outcome: 43-year-old Kevin Weeks’ died a week after exposure to the pathogen.Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 12.53.52 PM

The wife of a 43-year-old man who died after allegedly eating food contaminated with the norovirus has filed a $2.9 million lawsuit against a popular Forest Grove restaurant.

Stacey Weeks faults Maggie’s Buns for catering a meal that she believes was tainted with the norovirus. Her husband, Kevin Weeks, was a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Forestry and ate the food at the work event on Friday, March 15, 2013.

Public health investigators said 15 other people fell ill by the following Saturday, but most were feeling better by Monday. Weeks, however, died the following Tuesday — four days after dining at the gathering.

Investigators determined that most of those who were sickened ate watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple or strawberries from a fruit tray. But investigators said in March 2013 that they didn’t know how the virus ended up there.

The virus is spread directly among people through contact or through contaminated food, water or surfaces. It’s highly contagious, but doesn’t usually kill.

Shortly after Weeks died, deputy state medical examiner Dr. Clifford Nelson said Weeks was exposed to the norovirus at the event, but it appeared that Weeks had health problems that caused his death. Nelson said, however, that he was awaiting some test results before he could draw a final conclusion.

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About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.