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Health officials investigating gastrointestinal outbreak in Garden City

12/27/2013

Special to The Hays Daily News

TOPEKA -- The Finney County Health Department, along with the Kansas Department of Agriculture and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, continues investigating an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness that appears to be associated with the Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches restaurant in Garden City.

The Finney County Health Department and KDHE are contacting diners by telephone and an online survey to determine who has been ill. As of noon Friday, more than 110 cases of illness among persons who reported eating food from this restaurant have been reported. Symptoms experienced include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and muscle aches.

KDA's Food Safety and Lodging program has conducted an inspection of the restaurant and has been working closely with Jimmy John's employees to respond to the outbreak.

An online survey has been developed, and anyone -- whether they have been ill or not -- who ate food from the Jimmy John's in Garden City between Dec. 10 and Dec. 24 is urged to complete the survey, which can accessed at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/gardencityillness.

"We are suspecting that this outbreak has been caused by norovirus," said D. Charles Hunt, state epidemiologist at KDHE.

Hunt said it is based on the symptoms of illness being reported, the large number of persons reported to be ill, and the period of time between food being eaten and the onset of illness -- or incubation period.

Norovirus typically causes gastrointestinal illness -- such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea and low-grade fever -- and easily is passed from person to person or through food that has been contaminated during preparation. It often causes large outbreaks, affecting a large percentage of persons who were exposed.

The best way to prevent norovirus is proper hand washing, excluding ill persons from preparing food, and proper cleaning and sanitizing of food preparation areas.

Members of the public who need to contact local health officials about the outbreak can call the Finney County Health Department at (620) 272-3600.