Mama C's reopens, nearly 500 Norovirus cases reported in Lucas and Wood Counties

MAUMEE, Ohio (WTVG) - A local restaurant re-opened Friday after a thorough cleaning amid reports of nearly 500 customers getting sick.

13abc checked in with the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department Tuesday. A spokesperson says there have been more than 400 reports from people sickened by Norovirus contamination linked to Mama C's Donuts and Coffee in Maumee. The Wood County Health Department reports it has seen 71 cases of Norovirus linked to the restaurant.

The health department said earlier St. Luke's Hospital reported an influx of emergency room visits from people suffering forborne illness. The customers reportedly told St. Luke's they had eaten at Mama C's. The sickened individuals reported eating doughnuts from Mama C's between the dates of Aug. 4-7.

Thursday morning, a spokesperson from the health department said more than 200 people suffered from the virus. That number increased to 260 by the end of Thursday and increased to 300 Friday morning.

A spokesperson from the health department says the restaurant has been very cooperative and voluntarily closed last Tuesday to deep clean the kitchen and sanitize the entire facility. The health department is working to determine whether the potential virus contamination came from employees, customers or elsewhere.

13abc spoke an employee who answered the phone at Mama C's Wednesday morning. She said, "We feel sorry about it. Like the Health Department said, some customer could be sick and touch the counter. Right now, we are in the process of deep cleaning. We feel so, so sorry for everything that happened. That's why we volunteered to close down to deep clean the story. We will reopen when everything is back to normal and the health department does an inspection. Thank you so much to all of our valued customers. We didn't want this to happen."

The health department says the virus is common at this time of the year and is important to emphasize that food workers (restaurants/resorts/festival booths), experiencing the above mentioned symptoms, should refrain from working (preparing and handling food/drinks/ice) for at least 72 hours (three days) after their symptoms go away, and that anyone else experiencing symptoms consistent with Norovirus should also refrain from handling food for others until 72 hours after their symptoms go away.

Symptoms of a Norovirus infection can include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, headache, body aches, and sometimes a mild fever. People typically become ill 24 to 48 hours after exposure to the virus, and symptoms usually last one to two days. It is important to note that people can spread the virus for up to 2 weeks after their symptoms go away.

Norovirus is present in the stool (feces) and vomit of infected people. It is spread primarily through contact with infected individuals, or through contamination of food prepared by a person who is currently ill or has been recently ill and didn’t wash their hands appropriately.

Although people commonly refer to Norovirus illness as “stomach flu,” the illness is not the same as influenza. Influenza is primarily a respiratory illness, characterized by symptoms like high fever, body aches, sneezing, a runny nose or a sore throat. Moreover, while influenza can be prevented with a vaccine, there is no vaccine for Norovirus, leaving good hand washing as the primary defense. Precautions that can help prevent the spread of Norovirus include:
- Washing your hands after going to the bathroom
- Washing your hands before handling food, beverages and ice
- Washing your hands before eating
- Excusing yourself from food preparation duties if you have diarrhea and/or vomiting
- Discarding foods that were handled or prepared by someone with diarrhea and/or vomiting
- Promptly cleaning and disinfecting any surfaces that become soiled with vomit or stool
- Staying home if you are ill