Two popular Halifax restaurants remain closed after virus outbreak
There are 26 cases of what appears to be a norovirus-like illness connected to a popular and upscale Halifax restaurant.
Everyone who fell ill either works at The Bicycle Thief or ate there last week. As restaurant owners and inspectors attempt to identify the source, a second restaurant owned by the same group was also closed as a precaution after two workers there became ill.
It appears those infected may have come into contact with the norovirus, but health officials won’t confirm that because they have yet to secure a sample from an infected individual.
Norovirus causes cramps, vomiting and diarrhea.
“Norovirus comes in through our city through cruise ships, planes, through people who are driving across our borders,” explains Dr. Gaynor Watson-Creed, a physician with Capital Health. “It’s here all the time.”
Health officials suspect the outbreak came from cruise ship passengers who visited Halifax on Aug. 9.
Most people who fell ill say they are just starting to feel better, but it seems no one is immune from the virus, including Olympic athletes.
Geoff Harris just returned from the London Games after competing in the 800 metre sprint and ate at the restaurant Friday with a friend. By Saturday, they had both fallen ill.
“Right around six or seven o’clock in the evening, I realized my stomach was not in a good place and I had to excuse myself from the cottage and ran outside and threw up,” says Harris. “It came on really fast.”
Food safety officials inspected the restaurants Monday and gave the owners approval to re-open. However, the restaurants will remain closed today. They plan to re-open Wednesday instead. Restaurant staff must be symptom-free for 48 hours before they can return to work.
Workers spent Monday cleaning kitchen equipment and throwing out restauarant supplies. The virus can survive on surfaces such as taps, kitchen counters and door handles for several days and health officials are warning anyone who is sick, or who may have come in contact with someone who is infected, to take the necessary steps to stop the spread of the virus.
Those steps include regular hand washing, disinfecting surfaces that may have come in contact with the virus, and not returning to work until at least 48 hours after symptoms have stopped.
The owners of The Bicycle Thief released this statement to CTV News Monday:
We would like to thank our loyal customers, the community and the Halifax restaurant industry for their tremendous support of our initiative to contain the Norwalk-like virus that seems to be making its rounds in Halifax at the moment.
As an entirely precautionary step, we've decided to close Ristorante a Mano today.
The Department of Agriculture has visited The Bicycle Thief today and has completed their due diligence.
Thank you again for your overwhelming support.
Stephanie & Maurizio Bertossi
In the meantime, the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia is in talks with other restaurants in the area to ensure they are taking appropriate norovirus precautions.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Alyse Hand