Statement From Microbiologist Charles Gerba Concerning A Recent Norovirus Outbreak Traced To Reusable Grocery Bag
PHOENIX, May 9, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — A recent outbreak of norovirus, a foodborne illness that causes severe symptoms including projectile vomiting and diarrhea, amongst an Oregon girls’ soccer team was traced back to a reusable grocery bag by the Oregon Public Health Division. As documented in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, this represents the first verified occasion in which the virus was transported by an inanimate object. As the study noted, “this also illustrates one of the less obvious hazards of reusable grocery bags.”
Dr. Charles Gerba, a professor in the Departments of Soil, Water and Environmental Science at the University of Arizona who conducts research about the transmission of pathogens through the environment, issued the following statement:
“The latest outbreak of norovirus reinforces the research we have conducted about the propensity of reusable grocery bags to act as hosts for dangerous foodborne bacteria and viruses. In reality, reusable bags are likely at fault much more often than we realize: cases often go unreported and uninvestigated.
“The cause of roughly 70 percent of foodborne illness cases, the norovirus spreads very easily and symptoms include projectile vomiting and severe diarrhea. It can have such sweeping consequences as school and emergency room closures. This incident should serve as a warning bell: permitting shoppers to bring unwashed reusable bags into grocery and retail stores not only poses a health risk to baggers but also to the next shoppers in the checkout line.”
About Dr. Charles Gerba: Chuck Gerba is a professor in the Departments of Soil, Water and Environmental Science (College of Agriculture), and Epidemiology and Environmental Health (College of Public Health) at the University of Arizona. He obtained his Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of Miami, Florida and was a faculty member in the Department of Virology and Epidemiology at Baylor College of Medicine from 1974 to 1981. He conducts research the transmission of pathogens through the environment. Dr. Gerba serves as an advisor to Hilex Poly, the world’s largest bag-to-bag recycler of plastic grocery bags. Hilex also manufacturers reusable bags. His recent research encompasses the transmission of pathogens by water, food and fomites; fate of pathogens in land applied wastes; development of new disinfectants; domestic microbiology and microbial risk assessment. He has been an author on more than 500 articles including several books on environmental microbiology and pollution science. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the International Water Association. In 1998 he received the A. P. Black Award from the American Water Works Association for outstanding contributions to water science and in 1996 he received the McKee medal from the Water Environment Federation for outstanding contributions to groundwater protection. He received the 1999 Award of Excellence in Environmental Health from National Association of County and City Health Officials.
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SOURCE Dr. Charles Gerba