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Popular Las Vegas Eatery Appears to Have Served up Salmonella to about 200 Patrons

May 13, 2013

Some 200 unlucky Las Vegas patrons who chose to eat at Firefly, a tapas restaurant and one of Sin City’s hottest restaurants, have reported food poisoning symptoms.

Salmonella is considered the likely culprit, according to an Associated Press (AP) report picked up by the Washington Post, and Southern Nevada health officials describe it as among the largest outbreaks seen in the region in about a decade.

Salmonella infection is usually caused by eating raw or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs or egg products. The incubation period ranges from several hours to two days. Possible signs and symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, chills and headache. The infection usually can last up to a week, although it may take several months for a person to return to normal.

Sick patrons who dined at the restaurant, located right off the town’s fabled “strip,” in late April arrived from about 20 different states and two foreign countries, according to a report released by the Southern Nevada Health District last Friday. There are likely many more cases that have gone unreported, the AP reported.

“The restaurant has been closed since April 26, when health district officials received reports of gastrointestinal illness from… people who had dined at Firefly between April 21 and 24,” according to AP. “Inspectors hit the restaurant with 44 demerits, including food stored at improper temperatures and employees handling food without gloves.”

Firefly owner John Simmons hopes to reopen by the end of the month at a different site near the old restaurant, he said in a statement, noting that he has employed a food safety consultant as part of his efforts to recoup the community’s confidence.

One Las Vegas couple has filed a lawsuit against Firefly; the firm they hired, which specializes in food-posoning cases, reported that so far 76 people have contacted them seeking inclusion in the suit.

In salmonella cases where a person has a few days of severe illness but fully recovers, a jury might award $5,000 or $10,000, one lawyer for the firm told the AP, adding that the settlement could rise if the person spent time in the hospital, missed work, or had long-term impediments associated with the infirmity.

A key element of the case will be determining whether the restaurant’s actions caused the outbreak, AP noted.

But two weeks after shutting down the restaurant, investigators say they have failed to identify a menu item or ingredient that’s the probable offender.

Some grated hard cheeses seemed to be linked to the illness, but the AP reported that many consumed menu items didn’t contain the cheese.

Among the things health inspectors are looking into are employee hygiene practices and examining the sources of some foods served raw, AP reported, adding that “[i]f the salmonella originated further back in the supply chain, sickness may be showing up elsewhere in the country.”

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