A pre-Christmas outbreak of vomiting and diarrhea that sickened almost 300 people in southwest Kansas was caused by norovirus, according to state health officials.
The outbreak has been linked to a Jimmy John's sandwich restaurant in Garden City.
As of Jan. 3, 282 people who ate at the restaurant between Dec. 10 and Dec. 24 reported becoming ill—most of them within 72 hours of eating at Jimmy John’s.
The restaurant voluntarily closed from Dec. 24 through Dec. 26 for a thorough cleaning and disinfection.
No new cases have been reported since the restaurant reopened Dec 27.
State Epidemiologist Charlie Hunt says norovirus is the real cause for most of what some people mistakenly call “stomach flu.”
“It typically occurs when someone is handling the food that has it on their hands,” says Hunt.
Although norovirus can persist on surfaces, Hunt says the presumption in this case is that someone who was infected came to work at the restaurant anyway, and failed to properly wash their hands and use disposable gloves.
“We are working to identify all the potential factors that contributed to the outbreak, and hopefully we’ll be able to make that determination, and everyone will learn from this, and we can hope to prevent it in the future," he says.
Hunt says this was one of the largest norovirus outbreaks in the state in recent years.