UPDATE: Norovirus outbreak reaches 600+ people

Posted at 3:50 PM, Jan 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-01 18:23:36-05

UPDATE (2/1): The Kansas Department of Health and Environment's ongoing investigation has uncovered more than 600 patrons have reported illness after attending the New Theatre Restaurant.

Many of the reports were from people who attended the restaurant between Jan. 15-19, health officials said. 

KDHE and other local health departments went to the Overland Park restaurant on Jan. 29 to educate staff about norovirus, oversee cleanup and observe food safety practices. 

New Theatre Restaurant contacted a private firm that cleaned the entire facility with an EPA-registered disinfectant, which kills norovirus and is safe for food establishments, the Kansas Department of Health said in a statement released on Monday. 

KDHE has not received any reports of people becoming ill who attended New Theatre after Wednesday, Jan. 27.



UPDATE (1/28): The Kansas Department of Health and Environment's ongoing investigation has uncovered more than 390 individuals - almost four times as many as initially identified - who have reported illness after attending the New Theatre Restaurant between Jan. 15 and the present.

In light of this information, the KDHE is asking all people who attended performances at New Theatre since Jan. 15, whether they have since become sick or not, to fill out a confidential online survey.

Government agencies are still investigating the source of the norovirus outbreak.

The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment has some tips.

"I want to underscore the fact that it is not airborne. It does not spread by coughing or that kind of transmission,” said Lougene Marsh, the director of Johnson County Department of Health and Environment. “If they touch an object, that virus can remain on that surface and you and I could come along behind that and touch that same surface, then perhaps touch raw food we're eating or put our fingers in our mouth for whatever reason, then we have now contracted the virus."

Intense hand washing is the best way to beat the virus.

“Really make sure you wash both sides of your hands, between your fingers, and try to get up underneath those finger nails,” Marsh explained. “Then use the towel to turn off the faucet, because somebody before me may have had that norovirus on their hands and not washed properly, touched the faucet and then even though I think I’ve washed properly, I still have the virus."


The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is working with the Kansas Department of Agriculture and the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment to investigate an outbreak of norovirus infection among individuals who became ill after attending the New Theatre Restaurant in Overland Park, Kan.

According to a news release from the KDHE, they are interviewing individuals who attended one of the two performances on Sunday, Jan. 17.

So far, they have found more than 100 individuals who reported illness. The KDHE said it has not had any reports of illness from individuals attending the theater on any other day.

The news release from the KDHE said four people who became ill have laboratory specimens that confirmed norovirus.

The New Theatre Restaurant has been fully cooperating with the investigation, according to the KDHE.

"I've never been sick like that before. I mean, I've had 24-hour bugs, intestinal bugs, but it was pretty acute,” said Mary Geisz, who became infected with norovirus after attending the Sunday evening show.

Several others in Geisz’s group also fell ill. “Eight of the 10 people were sick, so she immediately reached out to the New Theatre,” she said. “What they told us was they got all the testing and the health department had said with a high degree of confidence that it was a virus that had been introduced."

The vice president of sales and marketing, Rob McGraw, doesn’t believe the venue had anything to do with the illness spreading. “This is such a common flu and it happens in elementary schools, it happens in hospitals, it happens wherever there is crowds of people, so it really doesn't have anything to do with food."

The state inspected the New Theatre Restaurant on Jan. 20. Reports show an inspector witnessed an employee handling raw chicken and then ready-to-eat chicken with the same gloves. The inspector also saw another employee carrying rolls without bare hands.

41 Action News cannot independently confirm if these issues are connected to the norovirus outbreak, but McGraw denied the findings.

"So wherever you saw that report, that's wrong,” he said. He maintains the kitchen has no issues.

Geisz said the illness will not stop her from returning to The New Theatre Restaurant.

“I was actually kind of relieved that it wasn't food poisoning to be honest with you, because I always thought their food was excellent and I won't be so reluctant to be returned," Geisz said.

About norovirus

The KDHE news release states norovirus is very contagious. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach pain. The KDHE news release states a person develops symptoms 12 to 48 hours after being exposed, and most people get better within one to three days.

The KDHE said the best way to prevent norovirus is proper handwashing.

The KDHE news release states norovirus is more common in winter months. It is spread from person to person, by touching contaminated surfaces or through contaminated food or water.

See more about norovirus on the CDC's website.

KDHE continuing its investigation

The KDHE is still investigating the source of the norovirus outbreak. To determine the extent and cause of the outbreak, the department is conducting a secure, confidential online survey among people who attended either performance at the New Theatre Restaurant on Jan. 17, including those who became ill and those who didn’t.

The online survey can be taken at online.

The KDHE’s news release states personal information will be held confidential, and this information is protected by state law.

The KDHE news release notes it’s limiting the survey only to people who attended the New Theatre Restaurant on Jan. 17. People who have participated in a telephone interview do not need to complete an online survey.

People with questions or concerns regarding the outbreak may call the KDHE Epidemiology Hotline at 877-427-7317.


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