LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) – Dozens of people have gotten sick at multiple restaurants across Arkansas and now some are questioning where exactly is it safe to eat.
More than 100 people reported being sick after eating at JJ’s Beer Garden and Brewery in Fayetteville since Sept. 13. The Arkansas Department of Health said people’s symptoms included diarrhea, vomiting and nausea.
JJ's announced on their Facebook page that they will voluntarily shut down for 24 hours and thoroughly disinfect the restaurant.
An atypical and unusually severe hepatitis A outbreak in northeastern Arkansas also infected at least 85 people and caused at least one death since February, health officials said last month.
"The best way to protect yourself from any food borne related illness is to wash your hands,” state epidemiologist Dirk Haselow said.
Haselow said the situation at JJ's is most likely a norovirus outbreak. It is often seen on cruise ships where people are living in close quarters.
"It is a virus that is spread in people's stool. When they don't wash their hands well after going to the bathroom, they can contaminate surfaces,” he said.
Haselow said health officials did not find anything wrong in terms of food safety during a health inspection. Health officials did report at least three workers were also sick.
"Norovirus is known for causing a big explosive outbreak when a 100 or 200 people get sick within a few days and then it just stops,” Haselow said.
Sherri Woodus with State Health Inspections says often times it is hard to tell if where you're eating will get you sick.
"We've had a few notable outbreaks within our state and it just happens sometimes. There are times when some things go wrong. We have multistate outbreaks that deal with products they just so happen to utilize in their facilities,” Woodus said.
She said your best bet is to check the restaurant’s previous health inspections on the Arkansas Department of Health's website.
"We have a public inspection portal. They can type in their local restaurant and up will pop up the last year of inspections. The most recent inspections they can retrieve,” Woodus said.
Woodus also said to check for warning signs when walking into a restaurant. Things like no hot water in the restroom could mean no hot water in the kitchen. But sometimes all it takes to get dozens of people sick is one sick employee.
“Stay home from work if you’re sick,” Haselow said.
The health department is still investigating the situation at JJ’s. Samples are still being tested in the lab to figure out exactly what caused the outbreak.