Celebrity chefs suck: UK Masterchef winner’s Mexican restraint chain Wahaca loses almost £5 Million after outbreak of noro hit staff and customers forced nine branches to close

This Is Money reports Mexican restaurant chain Wahaca has plunged into a £4.7m loss, blaming a norovirus outbreak which forced it to close nine restaurants.

The chain, which was founded by 2005 MasterChef winner Thomasina Miers, said sinking into the red was partly due to one-off costs of £700,000, which sent profits down from £600,000 a year earlier. Around 160 customers and a quarter of Wahaca’s staff were taken ill in October 2016 after it was hit by an ‘unprecedented’ outbreak of Norovirus.  

In all 18 of the 25 restaurants were hit and 11 including Canary Wharf, Covent Garden, Oxford Circus, Soho and White City, all in London, had to close. 

Wahaca co-founder Mark Selby later admitted it ‘changed the way they did business’.

He said July last year: ‘We’ve had to make some tough calls with our suppliers. We’ve had to say, we have to have absolute visibility or we can’t work with you.
At one stage we thought we were going to have to close every restaurant for four weeks,’ says Selby. ‘During that time sales plummeted 45 per cent, but if I’d had to close all sites, I don’t see how we would have survived.’ 

Selby got together with Thomasina Miers, the 2005 winner of the BBC’s MasterChef series, and together they opened the first Wahaca in Covent Garden in 2007.

Another worry for the chain is immigration post-Brexit. Only a quarter of Wahaca’s 1,200 staff are British. 

Selby said: ‘[We] opened in Chichester and found it really hard to find staff to work there, even in management.’  

Raw is risky: At least 40 sick linked to 2 Canadian oyster farms

Two B.C. Vancouver Island oyster farms have been closed following an outbreak of norovirus associated with eating the raw shellfish.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control says about 40 cases of acute gastrointestinal illness have been connected to the consumption of raw oysters since March. Testing has confirmed some of the cases were norovirus.

Federal officials with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) confirmed the affected farms are located on the east coast of Vancouver Island at Deep Bay and Denman Island.

While the two farms are no longer harvesting oysters for consumption, no recall of oysters has been issued by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

While the precise sources of contamination have not been identified, human sewage in the marine environment is currently believed to be the most plausible cause of shellfish contamination, according to BCCDC epidemiologist Marsha Taylor.

In late 2016 and early 2017, more than 400 norovirus cases associated with raw or undercooked B.C. oysters led to the closure of 13 farms.

The outbreak was declared over in April 2017. Human sewage was also suspected as the cause.

In order to kill norovirus and other pathogens, the BCCDC recommends consumers cook oysters thoroughly, to an internal temperature of 90 C for 90 seconds. Consumption of raw oysters is not encouraged.

Use a tip sensitive thermometer and stick it in.

And stop eating raw: It’s just a put on.

(The video is from The Who’s farewell concert in Toronto in 1982, which I watched in my girlfriend’s residence in 1982 at uni, but they’re still around to make a buck, just like food hacks. At least Towsend had tales to tell)

Blame the consumer, cruise edition

‘The simple fact is that if people washed their hands, there would be no norovirus,’ that’s what Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley said in an  interview in Business Insider published this week.

Nope. It’s not that simple. Handwashing is a factor, but so is showing up ill, so is how surfaces are cleaned and sanitized (and with what compound). Norovirus isn’t just a handwashing or cruise patron problem. And if it was, and  was so simple we wouldn’t see 20 million + illness annually in the U.S.

The article has another gem, 

But personal hygiene isn’t always enough, according to Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. In addition to physical contact, the illness can also spread from an infected person’s respiratory system, which means that simply breathing the same air as an infected person can leave you vulnerable.

Huh? The virus can be aerosolized and then deposited on surfaces dozens of feet away from a vomit event – but it’s not a respiratory illness.

Over 20 affected by outbreak of stomach virus in Norway

The Norwegian Tourist Association (DNT) reported on Sunday that cases of a contagious stomach virus have broken out at some cabins at Hardangervidda. A total of 23 people were affected, reported the association

“It’s a hard problem when our people at our cabins get sick. We do our best to take care of them,” said Henning Hoff Wikborg, CEO of DNT Oslo and Omegn in a press release on Sunday.

Those who are ill have been isolated in their own room, and have access to their own toilet, or have been transported and accommodated in hotels, according to Wikborg.

 

114 sick: Norovirus at Vermont restaurant

From Norway to Vermont, Norovirus can strike anywhere, including the Windjammer Restaurant in South Burlington, Vt.

Health officials now say 114 cases can be tied to the South Burlington restaurant. They say 108 people got sick by eating there. The other six fell ill by coming into contact with someone who ate at the restaurant.

The Vermont Department of Health says it is hearing about more cases but they happened prior to the restaurant closing down last Friday.

The eatery reopened Sunday.

Probably noro: Over 20 people affected by outbreak of stomach virus in Norway

The Norwegian Tourist Association (DNT) reported on Sunday that 23 people were affected by a stomach virus at Hardangervidda. The sick have been isolated from other patients.

The Norwegian Tourist Association (DNT) reported on Sunday that cases of a contagious stomach virus have broken out at some cabins at Hardangervidda. A total of 23 people were affected, reported the association

“It’s a hard problem when our people at our cabins get sick. We do our best to take care of them,” said Henning Hoff Wikborg, CEO of DNT Oslo and Omegn in a press release on Sunday.

Those who are ill have been isolated in their own room, and have access to their own toilet, or have been transported and accommodated in hotels, according to Wikborg.

Hordaland Red Cross have taken 15 people from Hardangervidda, and the municipality in Eidfjord fears an outbreak of ‘norovirus’, wrote Bergens Tidende newspaper on Sunday. Symptoms of the stomach virus are nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhoea.

Toilets’ water tanks confirmed to have caused norovirus in Pyeongchang

South Korea’s public health authorities have confirmed that the “water tanks of portable toilets” were the reason behind an outbreak of norovirus at the host city of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics that affected around 300 security personnel for the event last month. 

The authorities announced Sunday that the water tanks of mobile toilets were what caused the norovirus infection as a result of its epidemiological investigation of Horeb Youth Camp Center and other related facilities. According to the investigation, the genotype of the virus detected in water tanks was matched with those of patients. There had been around 570 portable lavatories set up during the Olympic period and ironically, water used to wash hands or brush teeth before leaving a toilet for the sake of hygiene was the culprit of infection.

In Indonesia, an elementary school teacher in Cempedak Lobang village, North Sumatra, appears to have escaped severe punishment, despite forcing one of her students to engage in a revolting punishment that could have easily endangered his health.

Last week, the parents of a student, identified by his initials MB, complained about their kid’s teacher, a woman with the initials RM, who subjected their son to needlessly vile corporal punishment simply because he didn’t bring his homework to school.

“My son was told to lick the toilet 12 times. But after four licks, he vomited,” said SH, MB’s mother, as quoted by Kompas yesterday.

(Considering the state of the toilet as shown in the picture below, it’s surprising that MB managed to get in any licks before throwing up…)

Norovirus is is a foodborne and person-to-person problem

I miss Bill Keene. He used passed away a couple of years ago, but would often email when he agreed or disagreed with stuff I wrote. in 2012, he sent me a message about norovirus making the case for environmental transmission,

‘when norovirus-infected people vomit, they shower their surroundings with an invisible fog of viruses—viruses that can later infect people who have contact with those surroundings and their fomites. In this case these were was a reusable bag and its contents—sealed packages of Oreos, Sun Chips, and grapes— but it could just have easily been a disposable plastic bag, a paper bag, a cardboard box, the flush handle on the toilet, the sink, the floor, or the nearby countertops.’

That was his assessment in investigating an outbreak.

According to Science Daily, a study by Arizona State University applied mathematicians in Royal Society Open Science, tracked the different ways that norovirus spreads, and which one infects the most people. They refined their model by fitting it to data from a real-world outbreak — in this case, the daily number of cases among crew and passengers over the course of two cruises.

“The data from the two groups gave the model the sensitivity it needed to be able to figure out the relative roles of infected surfaces and people in transmitting the illness,” said Sherry Towers, the study’s lead author and professor at the Simon A. Levin Mathematical, Computational and Modeling Sciences Center.

“The findings indicate that, although environmental transmission by itself is enough to keep an outbreak going, person-to-person contact is the primary mode of transmission,” Towers said.

Hockey handshake lines at the olympics impacted by norovirus

A couple of times a week I play hockey with a bunch of amateur skaters. We play in a C league. That means we’re not very good. Most are out to have some fun and drink some beer after the buzzer.

Sometimes, there’s a player or two who got into it with each other (that’s a hoser hockey term for a push or a trip) who re-meet in the post-game handshake line.

The classy hockey players fist bump or slap hands and say ‘good game.’

Not everyone is classy. Leave it on the ice, we’ve all got to get up and get back to our normal lives the next day.

I’m talking to you, guy in the green helmet from my game last night. Don’t be so angry.

And don’t give me norovirus.

According to ABC News, the handshake lines are different during the Pyeongchang Olympics compared to other games after over 200 security folks and athletes have acquired the virus.

Officials have told players to fist-bump each other rather than shaking hands to prevent transmission of norovirus, which is highly contagious. U.S. defenseman James Wisniewski’s 62-year-old father tested positive for norovirus last week and is one of 49 of 283 confirmed Olympic cases still in quarantine.

“It’s something that you’re like, ‘Ah, really how bad can it get?’ And then all of a sudden bang, bang — a couple people close to you have it and you don’t really know how, you don’t know where,” Wisniewski said Monday. “You don’t want it going through your locker room, that’s for sure.”

17 new cases of Norovirus at the Winter Olympics

There’s a reason why people panic when they hear norovirus. It is extremely contagious and difficult to control. I’ve had it and the plethora of pain that accompanies it is not pleasant.

IOL reports:

Norovirus cases at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics have risen to nearly 200, organisers said on Monday, despite an intense battle to contain the outbreak.
Seventeen new cases have taken the total to 194, although 147 of those affected have already been released from quarantine, they said.
About 1,200 security guards were quarantined and replaced by hundreds of soldiers when the highly contagious bug first came to light last week.
Officials say they are doing everything they can to stop more people getting the virus, which causes diarrhoea and vomiting and can be spread by contaminated food and water.
Any illness spreading to the competitors would be a major embarrassment to hosts South Korea.