Which Foodborne Illness Is Contagious | 4 mins read

Which Foodborne Illness is Contagious?

which foodborne illness is contagious
Cynthia Vespia

By Cynthia Vespia

Which Foodborne Illness is Contagious from Person to Person?

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When you hear about foodborne illness most often the thought is that poisoning usually comes from contaminated food. Hearing that food poisoning can also spread through person-to-person contact may seem shocking. But that's exactly what happened during an outbreak of E.coli in romaine lettuce.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) not all of the ill persons had eaten the bad lettuce. They contracted the illness by simply being in contact with others who were already ill from the E.coli strain.

This type of secondary exposure is actually very common with foodborne illness outbreaks. The spread of food poisoning usually can be limited or contained by following safety protocols whenever food is being handled. Understanding which foodborne illness are contagious will keep everyone prepared.

How Food Poisoning Becomes Contagious
Bacteria, viruses and parasites can cause food to become toxic. When a person eats contaminated food or contaminated water, they become sick. After eating food that's contaminated the pathogens can then travel from person to person. This can happen through direct contact like kissing or indirect contact such as using contaminated eating utensils.

Norovirus- Which Foodborne Illness is Contagious?

Norovirus is the common cause of gastroenteritis, more commonly referred to as the stomach flu. It's the second most common virus after the common cold. Norovirus is usually transmitted by-

  • Coming into contact with an infected person
  • Eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water
  • Touching contaminated surfaces and then putting unwashed hands in the mouth causing cross contamination

The norovirus is resistant to most disinfectants making it hard to contain through the standard safety measures. This is often why norovirus becomes responsible for outbreaks of foodborne illnesses. Over 23 million cases of gastroenteritis are recorded each year with half of those cases pertaining to the United States.

It can take up to 48 hours for the symptoms of norovirus to show. The food poisoning symptoms usually lasts roughly 24 to 60 hours. Norovirus is diagnosed using a combination of symptoms.

Common symptoms include-

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Low Grade Fever
  • Abdominal pain or Stomach Cramps
In some cases, more extreme symptoms like dehydration or malnutrition can show up in special populations. Young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems are the most susceptible. If symptoms become advanced seek medical advice.

How to Prevent Norovirus Infection
Because it is a virus and not a bacterium, Norovirus is one of the only pathogens that doesn't multiply on food. There is currently no vaccine for norovirus. Following prevention tips will help to protect from the norovirus.

How to Conquer the Spread

Visible evidence of contaminated sources is rare. Make sure proper food safety and standards are enforced to help eliminate contagion. Follow these tips-

  • Wash hands- Keeping foodborne pathogens from spreading starts with thorough hand washing. Hot water and soap should be used to create a thick lather. Hands should always be washed after using the restroom, handling any refuge, and especially before and after food preparation.
  • Clean soiled linens- Any towels or napkins that are used in a food environment should be cleaned and never used when soiled. Even something like a dirty sleeve wiped across the face can be a source of foodborne bacteria. Play it safe and keep linens and cloths clean.
  • Sanitize and Disinfect- All common surfaces should be disinfected and sanitized using bleach or other quality cleansers. Areas like kitchen counters, doorknobs and especially bathrooms can cause food poisoning and should be wiped down thoroughly and frequently. This little bit of effort will go a long way with keeping contagious bacteria from spreading.
  • Stay out of the kitchen- Persons who feel ill shouldn't be a food handler. If there's even a small chance that illness is beginning it's best to err on the side of caution and keep the kitchen area a "no-go" zone. Keep food safe by not have an ill individual prepare food for other people. Once the individual has left the area, any utensils or surfaces they touched should be cleaned.

  • Wash hands often
  • Rinse fruits and vegetables
  • Shellfish and raw undercooked meat can cause illness. Always cook to the right internal temperature
  • Stay home and avoid preparing food for others when sick
  • Drink plenty of water to offset dehydration

Conclusion to Which Foodborne Illness is Contagious

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  • Norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the U.S. Anyone can get norovirus illness.
  • Some people may get severely dehydrated with stomach pain, especially young children, the elderly, and people with other illnesses. In extreme cases, medical treatment should be sought for proper health care.
  • Norovirus remains on objects and surfaces for days or even weeks. In that time it can still infect people. Norovirus can survive some disinfectants, making it hard to get rid of.
  • There's no vaccine to prevent norovirus infection and no drug to treat it.