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An outbreak of norovirus at Mexican restaurant chain Wahaca has caused nine locations to close while an investigation is made into the source of the bug, which is alleged to have affected 205 members of staff and 160 customers.

Explaining the vomiting bug, Dawn Rose – Associate Solicitor on Simpson Millar’s Personal Injury team and a specialist in liability law – insists that the spread of the infection could have been combatted by following simple hygiene practices.

Norovirus outbreak

The popular chain of Mexican restaurants, which has 25 locations – most of which can be found in London – was set up by former Masterchef winner Thomasina Miers.

Public Health England (PHE) is investigating the outbreak of norovirus at multiple Wahaca restaurants, which caused nine to be voluntarily closed by the chain.

Wahaca has responded by organising a deep clean of all locations and has since re-opened five of the closed locations.

In a statement on their website, Wahaca’s co-founders said:

“Last week a number of our staff and customers were struck down by what is suspected to be the winter vomiting bug, norovirus.”

“We assessed each case and when it became clear they were not isolated incidents, we got in touch with relevant officials at Public Health England and Environmental Health Offices. In tandem with that, we took our own precautionary measures – voluntarily closing affected restaurants, carrying out anti-viral deep cleaning at all of our restaurants, whether affected or not, and ensuring that any staff member who had reported illness remained off site until their symptoms had ceased for at least 48 hours.”

A spokesperson for PHE confirmed that they were investigating reports of the norovirus outbreak, with the Government health department confirming that they had received unconfirmed reports that 205 members of staff and 160 customers of Wahaca had developed the bug.

Stopping the spread

Norovirus, often called the ‘winter vomiting bug’ – due to its prevalence during the colder months – causes diarrhoea and vomiting.

Symptoms of norovirus, which is one of the most common stomach bugs in the UK, usually subside after a few days.

Despite this, symptoms can become more serious and may require further medical advice, however those suffering from the bug are advised to call the non-emergency 111 number to discuss their concerns, as visiting a GP could help the spread of the bug.

Typically, the bug can be spread by one contaminated person not following hygiene practices and contaminating food or work surfaces. The bug can also be spread through direct contact with somebody suffering from the virus.

With nine different locations affected by the outbreak, one possible explanation for the spread through Wahaca restaurants could be contaminated food coming from a single distributor, however it is expected the PHE report will reveal more details about the cause of the norovirus’ spread.

Commenting on the outbreak, Dawn said:

 “I’m extremely shocked by the scale of number of people allegedly affected by the suspected outbreak of norovirus at the Wahaca food chain.”

“Whilst it is correct that most people recover from norovirus within 2-3 days the symptoms can be very nasty. Not only do those unfortunate enough to be affected by norovirus experience unpleasant symptoms; they can also suffer the expense caused by having to take time off work and the inconvenience of being unable to go about their normal day to day activities.”

“The bug can cause dehydration which can be very serious in young children, older adults and people already suffering from other illnesses, for these groups of people the dehydration caused by norovirus can be significant and even life threatening.”

“What is particularly concerning about this incident is that the spread of norovirus can be significantly reduced by following the standard health and safety practices expected in all food outlets such as washing hands, disinfecting surfaces, and  correctly handling food produce.” 

“I sincerely hope that the investigation launched by the Public Health England identifies the cause of the outbreak and ensures better standards in future.”

Written by Dawn Rose.

For more information on personal injury and the services offered by Simpson Millar, please call:

0808 129 3304

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