At least 20 patrons have contracted a possible case of what appears to be a foodborne illness that has been traced to a local restaurant, according to the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health.
The department is investigating the illness outbreak after receiving multiple reports from patrons who ate at Cebolla’s Mexican Grill at 5930 W. Jefferson Blvd. in Time Corners on Sunday.
Initial reports said about 20 people fell ill after eating at the restaurant, but department spokesperson John Silcox said those calls have increased since the outbreak was publicized Friday.
The investigation is ongoing and test results are pending, but the symptoms are consistent with a type of viral gastroenteritis known as norovirus, Silcox said.
Norovirus – sometimes called food poisoning or stomach flu – is the leading cause of foodborne illness in the United States and is common, especially in restaurants, nursing homes, schools and on cruises, Silcox said.
Health officials said management at the popular Mexican restaurant are fully cooperating with the investigation.
“Our primary goal is the safety and health of our customers,” said Roberto Soto, manager of the restaurant.
Soto said it has been tough, but he and his staff are working with health department officials.
The restaurant closed Thursday so that staff could clean and disinfect the building and furnishings.
“We just want everyone to know that precautionary measures have been taken to ensure the health and safety of our customers,” Soto said.
Employees were interviewed by health department officials and those reporting feeling ill or having symptoms were tested for the virus, Silcox said.
Although it will be weeks before the investigation is concluded and findings are known, early indicators point to an employee who might have reported to work in spite of feeling ill, Silcox said.
For more information, visit www.allencountyhealth.com or call 449-7561.
The Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health issued this information about norovirus:
Norovirus illness is often called "food poisoning" or "stomach flu," but norovirus illness is not the only cause of food poisoning and is not related to the flu, which is a respiratory illness.
Symptoms of norovirus infection usually include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach cramping. Other, less common, symptoms may include low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and fatigue.
Most people will recover in one or two days and suffer no long-term health effects from the illness. However, young children and the elderly are at higher risk for dehydration and should drink plenty of liquids to replace liquids lost to vomiting and diarrhea.
The best way to keep from spreading the virus is to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, especially after using the bathroom, changing diapers or preparing food.
Contaminated surfaces should also be cleaned and disinfected with a bleach solution.