Buffalo Wild Wings Food Poisoning Investigation Turns Up Health Code Violations

Amid reports of gastrointestinal illnesses, a probe into a Kansas City Buffalo Wild Wings has discovered more than a dozen health code violations, leading local and state officials to launch an investigation for a potential food poisoning outbreak. 

According to a press release (PDF) issued by the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment on February 2, the agency and state health officials have received at least 10 reports involving illness among individuals claiming to have eaten at the Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant just days before symptoms began, prompting the agencies to begin norovirus outbreak protocols.

The state’s health officials are asking customers who have eaten at the Overland Park, Kansas City Buffalo Wild Wing restaurant to consult their doctor if they experience any signs of food poisoning and to report them immediately to their local health department.

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The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment began receiving complaints last Friday, with individuals who had eaten at the Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant the day before claiming they developed stomach virus symptoms.

To date, the agency has received 10 reported gastrointestinal illnesses, but none of the reports have been confirmed to involve any specific food-borne illness, such as norovirus, salmonella, or listeria.

As the complaints of customers experiencing severe stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea continued to be reported, the local health department conducted a probe on Saturday, where it identified 17 health code violations, including employees wiping their nose or faces with the food handling gloves they were wearing, bottles of alcohol on the bar with dead insects in them, cooking utensils with dried food debris, and boxed dinner napkins stored on the floor in the employee bathrooms.

Health officials state that although most of the violations were corrected during the inspection, the agency forced the restaurant to shut down on Saturday and have a third party vendor to conduct a thorough cleaning.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reportedly collected samples from food and food preparation surfaces and stations that are currently being processed to determine the cause of the outbreak. Officials say that the results would become available within the next couple of days and suggested that the possible cause could be norovirus, due to the common trend of outbreaks around this time of year.

Norovirus is one of the leading causes for food-borne illnesses in the United States, causing an estimated 20 million illnesses, 56,000-71,000 hospitalizations, and between 570 to 800 fatalities annually. The virus is very common during the winter months due to its ability to withstand colder temperatures and causes your stomach and intestines to become inflamed, leading to stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. Other common symptoms of norovirus are fever, headaches, and body aches, especially in the abdomen region.

The virus can be transmitted to anyone by ingesting contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces and then putting them in your mouth. Individuals who contract norovirus typically see symptoms beginning as early as 12 hours after exposure and the virus usually lasts up to three days for healthy individuals. Common among food-borne illnesses, individuals such as children, pregnant women, or the elderly with weakened immune systems are at higher risks of becoming infected. It is crucial that individuals who believe to be ill with norovirus consult their doctors immediately, and always drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, as this could enhance the symptoms and lead to further medical complications.

The potential norovirus outbreak at the Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in Overland Park, Kansas City follows a norovirus outbreak that sickened over 600 people who reportedly had eaten at the New Theatre Restaurant in Overland Park just last month. Health officials do not believe that the two outbreaks are in any way related but have not ruled out the possibility.

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