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Don Antonio's Salmonella Outbreak Lawsuits

On Tuesday, March 24, 2015 the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LAC-DPH) received reports of gastrointestinal illness in three separate groups of people. A fourth group of diners reported illness on March 25. All four groups had eaten at Don Antonio’s Restaurant on March 20. Symptoms included diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fevers, body aches and headaches. The LAC-DPH Acute Communicable Disease Control Program (ACDC) initiated an investigation to determine the extent of the outbreak, risk factors for disease, and steps needed to prevent further spread of disease. The outbreak was assigned identification number 2015-145.

An outbreak associated case was defined as a person eating at Don Antonio’s between March 18 and March 20 who 1) had a stool, urine, or blood sample taken which grew Salmonella, or 2) had diarrhea and fever, or 3) had diarrhea and two other symptoms. An attempt to identify non-ill dining companions willing to be interviewed as “controls” met with limited success. In total 23 cases and 6 controls were identified. Stool and blood samples were collected by the private medical facilities the cases visited.

The median age of cases was 37 years, ranging from 3-83 years. Main symptoms of cases included diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, fever, and chills. Illness onsets occurred between March 20, 2015 and March 25, 2015. The median incubation period was 26.5 hours (range 2 to 122 hours). Thirteen restaurant patrons had confirmed Salmonella Enteritidis laboratory cultures with PFGE pattern JEGX01.0002.

LAC-DPH Environmental Health Services (EHS) conducted three inspections at the restaurant beginning on March 25, 2015. Investigators noted violations such as improper holding temperatures, unapproved equipment usage, and inadequate sanitizing of utensils. On March 27 investigators noticed a failure to clean a cutting board after pounding raw chicken and an unapproved equipment immersion blender paddle in use. The possibility for cross contamination was also observed. The restaurant voluntarily closed over the weekend of March 27-28 for thorough cleaning and sanitizing. On April 1 EHS conducted a third inspection at Don Antonio’s. All violations noted previously had been corrected.

Stool samples were collected from all 36 employees. One food server admitted to gastrointestinal symptoms which began on March 23 and lasted for 5 days. This individual did not work while symptomatic and tested negative for Salmonella and Shigella. Nine employees had positive cultures for Salmonella Enteritidis with PFGE pattern JEGX01.0002. These employees included managers, cooks, waiters, bartenders, and cleaning staff. All were prohibited from handling food until two stool tests were negative for Salmonella.

LAC-DPH investigators concluded that the likely source of the outbreak was an ill Don Antonio’s employee. No additional complaints or illnesses were reported after Don Antonio’s took appropriate measures to remove all potential causes of this outbreak.

Marler Clark represented 9 individuals affected by the outbreak, achieving settlements covering medical expenses, wage loss, and pain and suffering.

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