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Norovirus outbreak infects 600 at New Theater Restaurant

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA), and Johnson County Department of Health and Environment (JCDHE) descended on the New Theater Restaurant Friday, Jan. 29.

The state agencies were there en masse to educate employees about norovirus, oversee cleanup and observe food safety practices, according to Food Safety News on Tuesday.

After the visit by the state, a private firm, Kearney-based Germicide Pro, came into the facility at 9229 Foster St. and spent six hours cleaning the entire restaurant with an EPA-approved disinfectant that kills norovirus and has been found safe for food establishments, reports the Kansas City Star.

“We wanted to stop it, to make sure it was all safe. Nothing is more important to us than the comfort and safety of our guests,” said Rob McGraw, New Theatre vice president for sales and marketing.

During KGHE’s investigation, over 600 individuals reported illness. The majority of the reports were from people who had attended the dinner theater between Friday, Jan. 15, and Tuesday, Jan. 19, reports Food Poison Journal. The KDHE has not received any reports of illness from people attending the New Theater Restaurant after Wednesday, Jan. 27.

The dinner theater seats 625 people and the meal is served buffet-style. Serving staff bring drinks and dessert to the tables. The New Theater Restaurant had its first season in 1992 and has been an integral part of the community for years.

According to New Theater Restaurant’s website, fresh food which is not served by the end of the night is frozen and donated to Harvester’s Community Food Network. Annually, this amounts to nearly 105,000 pounds of food or roughly 80,500 meals for individuals and families in need in the greater Kansas City area.

Norovirus is a highly contagious disease. Individuals can be infected with norovirus from 12 to 48 hours after exposure. symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach pain. The best way to prevent transmission of norovirus and other diseases is by proper hand washing.

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