Norovirus Causes County to Close Restaurant

Environmental health officials, acting on Thursday lab results, shutter California Pizza Kitchen in Broadway Plaza, Walnut Creek.

County environmental health officials have ordered the closing of a popular Walnut Creek pizza restaurant after test results confirmed that customers and restaurant staff have norovirus.

Have you eaten at this restaurant lately? 

Contra Costa County Environmental Health Director Marilyn Underwood said the county ordered California Pizza Kitchen at Broadway Plaza, Walnut Creek, closed at 5 p.m. Thursday after receiving lab resulting confirming norovirus.

Norovirus is a contagious virus that you can get from an infected person, contaminated food or by touching contaminated surfaces. Each year, norovirus causes about 21 million gastrointestinal illnesses, and contributes to about 70,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths, according to the website of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

County officials have linked the norovirus to a food-borne illness outbreak connected with salad served Thursday, June 7, at

County officials went to the restaurant Thursday evening and posted a notice closing the restaurant under the authority of state law. They asked the staff to close the restaurant. The staff quietly asked customers to leave, Underwood said.

The first batch of samples came back Thursday. Of five employees tested, three positive for norovirus, Underwood said. Of two customers tested, both were positive for norovirus.

Underwood said staffers have interviewed 11 people who ate salad at CPK June 7 and subsequently suffered gastrointestinal symptoms.

The county is looking for other people who ate at CPK that day or in subsequent days and may have suffered gastrointestinal symptoms. They are asked to call the Environmental Health Division of Contra Costa Health Services in Concord at (925) 692-2500.

The people suffered symptoms such as painful abdominal cramps, fever, chills, joint pain, headaches, vomiting and diarrhea, Underwood said. The symptoms typically last two days.

It's important to keep patients with gastrointestinal illness from norovirus hydrated, but there is no standard medication used, Underwood said. With norovirus, Underwood said, medical professionals recommend that food service employees, even after they stop experiencing symptoms, wait three days before going back to work. One infected restaurant worker may have come to work and the virus spread to other workers, Underwood said.

Inspection Tuesday

The Environmental Health Division received complaints and visited the restaurant Tuesday. In their inspections and observations, they have suggested  several improvements in food handling and hygiene for restaurant workers to make, Underwood said. California Pizza Kitchen staff have been cooperative, Underwood said.

CPK staff in Walnut Creek referred calls for comment to a marketing official in corporate headquarters in Los Angeles. Patch has a call in to corporate headquarters seeking comment.

Underwood said county staff suggested CPK food handlers:

  • wash their hands more frequently and when moving from one food handling task to another.
  • use sanitizer when washing rags used for wiping down counters.
  • take more care to see that utensil handles don't fall into food and wash them when they do.

Investigators have gotten stool samples from 11 customers and four employees who were working June 7. Results from those samples are expected next week, said Underwood. Researchers will be looking for possible pathogens.

Many complaints were received from a large party, with people gathering at CPK the day after the June 6 Las Lomas High graduation, Underwood said. With a large group of friends talking to each other, the word spread of multiple people falling ill.

Most stricken customers that county officials are aware of ate salad at lunchtime through midafternoon June 7, Underwood said. One who was stricken ate salad in the evening.

From interviews, county officials believe as many as 19 may suffered symptoms and are trying to locate and interview others with complaints, Underwood said.

People have had the onset as much as 33 hours after eating a salad at CPK, Underwood said, so county officials think they may hear from others.

Jed June 15, 2012 at 03:28 PM
So much for eating in Walnut Creek - "the retail and specialty shop snob capital" of northern Diablo Valley. Isn't norovirus associated with rats and mice? MYSTERY MEAT PIZZA... "you want our special sauce with that?" Eww, ick!
sydney schmedlapp June 16, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Humm... the only reason the health officials closed the joint is they fact that the clientele are mostly upper middle class folks who have political connections. If this occurred in Richmond or some similar city, the officials would ignore the situation and claim that they are too understaffed to do any inspections.
Vicky June 18, 2012 at 03:01 PM
HUMMM... norovirus is from folks using restroom and not washing your hands! Then you pass it on when handling food. Also you have to wash lettuce properly by putting in sink with cold water and some ice to kill and bugs still in lettuce and spin it. Employees should wear gloves and dispose after each time they handle food.
Chris Kapsalis June 18, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Going over board just makes us more susceptible to getting something. We build up resistance to many things by being exposed to it and not worrying about it too much. I would bet you the average restaurant is many may times safer than the average home kitchen. 21 million cases a year? I get a stomach ache now and then. And every time, I guess it is human nature, "where did I eat? Who did this to me? When in all likely hood it was something in my own fridge to blame or who knows. Another case of overblown media coverage for a common thing that, imo, is not really news worthy.
Chris Kapsalis June 18, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Let me correct something. I don't think the media is overblowing it so much, but athorites. It is news worthy as a story. Just again, not something that is tops on my plate of things to worry about. And I know it is a lot of work reporting, and great article.


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