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North Shore norovirus breakout prompts scrubbing of restaurant

By Leila Fujimori

LAST UPDATED: 2:46 a.m. HST, Apr 17, 2011


» Some participants in last Sunday's Haleiwa Metric Century Ride ate at Cholo's Homestyle Mexican II restaurant, which is linked to 42 suspected cases of norovirus on the North Shore. The story below erroneously reported the restaurant served food at the bike ride.


The Department of Health said a Hale­iwa restaurant linked to 42 cases of suspected norovirus in an outbreak on the North Shore has been scrubbed and is safe, but other eating establishments and food sources are still being investigated.

State Epidemiologist Sarah Park said the owners of Cholo's Homestyle Mexican II voluntarily shut down the restaurant Tuesday afternoon to do a thorough cleaning and reopened Wednesday.

The restaurant disinfected all surfaces and utensils, under the health inspectors' supervision, and disposed of a lot of food, she said.

"This poor restaurant may be one of a number of links — one node in a continuous outbreak," Park said. The outbreak may have preceded the Hale­iwa cases, she said.

Meanwhile, more people continue to report to the Health Department they have experienced symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal cramping, but with a mild fever or none. Symptoms usually appear 24 to 48 hours after exposure, lasting two to three days.

"What people like to call stomach flu" is usually caused by one of a number of noroviruses (formerly called Norwalk-like viruses), which cause acute gastroenteritis within a day or two, Park said. In contrast, food poisoning usually occurs within a few hours of eating a meal.

The department tallied 42 suspected cases of norovirus as of yesterday afternoon. All of those sickened reported eating at Cholo's.

Following testing, norovirus was positively identified in one.

In addition to investigating the restaurant, where workers also reported being ill, the Health Department had been looking at the possibility that the virus spread through food served Sunday at the Hale­iwa Metric Century Ride bicycling event on the North Shore. Some of that food came from Cholo's.

Ride participant Brent Hama­saki, 40, of Kalihi, his son, 15, and father-in-law became sick Monday night.

"The only thing we had in common was we all had the fish taco plate, and we all had the salsa and the chips."

"My stomach is still a little upset," Hama­saki said yesterday. "I had it worst. I'm not sure if I'm going to work tomorrow."

Park said the virus is common, infectious, persistent and highly resistant to cleaning.

"It's caused by someone who was infected and didn't wash their hands very well," said Park.

Washing one's hands thoroughly prevents getting and spreading the virus, and bleach-based products are recommended for cleaning possibly contaminated surfaces.

About a third of those with the virus have no symptoms, and those sickened who might no longer have symptoms can still spread the virus for weeks.

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