These days, just about any household object could be a potential source of bacteria, viruses, and infection. We know we should regularly disinfect our cell phones, door handles, kitchen and bathroom surfaces, but here’s a new one: reusable grocery bags. Perhaps they shouldn’t always be reused.
Warning: Germaphobes and those with little tolerance for the ick factor should click away now.
The Journal of Infectious Diseases recently investigated the source of a norovirus outbreak that sickened nine members of a girls’ soccer team. The culprit turned out to be the reusable grocery bag which contained the team’s snacks. Unfortunately, the bag was stored in the hotel restroom that was used by one team member who exhibited stomach flu symptoms, including vomiting and diarrhea.
Noroviruses are a leading cause of gastroenteritis worldwide and the most common cause of foodborne outbreaks in the United States.
Patient Zero, whose stomach virus contaminated the bag in the bathroom and subsequently the other team members, was likely ill before the trip to the soccer tournament. The experts say the bag was contaminated when viral particles were transmitted through the air from the toilet to the bag.
So, reusable fabric grocery bags aren’t inherently infectious, just the ones that have come in contact with something icky, or are left in a bathroom with a vomiting girl. Moral of the story, it’s probably a good idea to never store food in the bathroom – ever.
-Follow Elise Rambaud Marrion, @emarrion_cmn.