The number of people sickened after dining at a popular Las Vegas restaurant continues to rise, with 200 people reportedly ill with Salmonella poisoning after eating at the Firefly restaurant.
Nevada health officials say that the outbreak is the largest they’ve seen in at least the past 10 years, according to the Associated Press (AP). Those sickened reported dining at Firefly, a tapas restaurant located on Paradise Road. The ill came from 20 states and two foreign countries, according to the Southern Nevada Health District. More cases have likely occurred, but were not reported, health officials noted.
“Usually we think of people who are identified as just the tip of the iceberg,” said Linh Nguyen, an epidemiologist with the health district and lead investigator on the case, according to the AP.
Firefly has been closed since April 26, which is when health district officials received reports of gastrointestinal illness from eight groups of people who had dined at the restaurant April 21 and 24. The restaurant, according to the AP, received 44 demerits, which included that food was stored at improper temperatures and employees handling food were not wearing gloves.
For his part, John Simmons, owner of Firefly, said that he intends on re-opening by month’s end, but in a different location near the current establishment; that he’s hired a food safety consultant; and that he is implementing the district’s recommendations in an effort to regain the community’s confidence in his restaurant, the AP report indicated.
So far, at least one Las Vegas couple has filed a lawsuit against Firefly and more lawsuits are expected, according to the AP.
The probe into the outbreak continues; however, investigators have been unable to identify what ingredient or menu choice or choices led to the illnesses and are now trying to match what common foods were eaten by those who fell ill. The AP report also indicated that inspectors are now looking at Firefly’s employee hygiene practices and are conducting a trace of the illnesses to foods that might be served raw. Should one of these items be involved—foods that go back even further in the food chain—then sicknesses may begin turning up in other areas of the United States, the AP explained.
By late 2012, the United States had seen food borne illness outbreaks linked to the Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria pathogen, with about 48 million people—one in six Americans—suffering from a food borne illness annually, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
About 3,000 deaths are attributed to food borne illnesses each year and 400 are attributed to acute salmonellosis, the infection caused by the Salmonella pathogen. Both drug resistant and nonresistant Salmonella poisoning results in some one million illnesses annually, costing the U.S. $365 million, according to a prior CDC report.
It can take between six and 72 hours from consumption of a contaminated product for the symptoms of salmonellosis to appear. Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever. Additional symptoms include chills, headache, nausea, and vomiting that can last up to seven days. The illness usually lasts four to seven days; however, in some, the organism can invade the bloodstream, becoming so severe that hospitalization is required.
Sometimes, infection with the Salmonella pathogen can result in and produce more severe or chronic illnesses and can leave sufferers with serious life-long health issues. Salmonellosis can be especially life threatening to those with weakened immune systems, such as infants; the elderly; and persons with compromised immune systems, such as people with HIV infection or who are undergoing chemotherapy.