Foodborne Illness Outbreaks in our Community: How to Prevent Them


Friday, October 11, 2019

 Perth County  ̶  October 14 to 18 marks Infection Prevention and Control Week and, this year, the Health Unit is reminding people how to prevent the spread of norovirus.  Over the years in Perth County, there have been foodborne illness outbreaks in the community that were the result of a sick food handler and linked to norovirus.

Foodborne illness or, more commonly, “food poisoning,” is sickness caused by bacteria (germs) in food. An outbreak is when two or more people experience similar illness after eating a common food.

Norovirus is extremely contagious and is easily spread from person to person in group settings. “Most foodborne illness outbreaks of norovirus likely happen when the people who are preparing or handling the food have the virus and contaminate the food,” explains Michelle Sergio, Public Health Inspector. “People who are handling and serving food must be diligent about food safety, whether cooking at home or in a restaurant.”

Symptoms of foodborne illness may occur in as little as 30 minutes or as long as 50 days after eating contaminated food. Symptoms of foodborne illness can include:

  • diarrhea
  • stomach cramps
  • nausea
  • fever
  • vomiting
  • headache

Foodborne illness can be prevented.  This holiday season remember these basic rules of food safety:


  • Wash and sanitize dishes, cutting boards and countertops after each use. Use a water/bleach solution for sanitization by combining ½ teaspoon of bleach and 1 litre of water.
  • Wash your hands with soap and clean, safe water for at least 20 seconds before and after cooking, and before eating.
  • Always wash raw vegetables and fruits in clean water.


  • Keep cold food cold at or below 4°Celsius (40°Fahrenheit)
  • Thaw meat in the refrigerator, microwave or under cold running water – not at room temperature.


  • Keep raw and ready-to-eat foods separate
  • Wrap raw meat carefully so that meat juices can’t contaminate other food
  • Always use a different plate for raw and cooked meat.


  • Use a food-probe thermometer while cooking and reheating to ensure correct temperatures are reached to destroy any potentially harmful bacteria.
  • Do not prepare food for others if you have symptoms of vomiting or diarrhea. In fact, it’s best to wait until you are symptom-free for 24 hours before preparing any food.
  • Cover any cuts or abrasions on your body

For more information: