CAMDEN, S.C. -- At least 71 diners who ate last week at the buffet-style Old South Restaurant may have become ill with salmonella, health officials say.
At least 16 of those who became ill had been hospitalized by Monday afternoon, Department of Health and Environmental Control spokeswoman Missy Reese said.
And Kershaw County Coroner Johnny Fellers is investigating if the death of a man this past weekend might be linked to the outbreak.
James Arledge, 58, otherwise appeared healthy before showing symptoms of salmonella, Fellers said. He had eaten at the restaurant Thursday along with the rest of the sick people, authorities said.
Results of an autopsy on Arledge are expected Tuesday afternoon, Fellers said.
It could take weeks for DHEC to determine the source of the salmonella at the restaurant, Reese said.
The bacteria usually comes from undercooked poultry products and causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fever, health officials said.
Inspectors gave the restaurant an "A" grade during an inspection Monday. It had the same grade on Thursday and DHEC had not reported any other problems at the restaurant, Reese said.
Waitress Naomi Geddes, speaking on behalf of the owners, said "I know for a fact they do keep their food fresh."
The investigation into the Camden restaurant is not that unusual. Health officials have conducted six other potential food-borne outbreak investigations in South Carolina this year, DHEC spokeswoman Jan Easterling said.
Lauren Medlock ate turkey, dressing and vegetables her mom brought home from the restaurant Thursday. "The next day I was totally weak. I could not move," she said.
For the next three days, Medlock said she suffered from diarrhea, vomiting and a bad stomach ache. "It's been pretty bad," she said. "I mean, my cramps were like having contractions again."