DHEC investigating whether 71 sick customers and a death are related to Camden restaurant
Kristy Eppley Rupon, The State
Tue, May. 24, 2005
At least 71 diners became ill from what state health officials are calling a possible salmonella outbreak at a Camden restaurant late last week, and officials are investigating whether the death of a Camden man is related.
Missy Reese, spokeswoman for DHEC’s Wateree Health District, said Monday that her office had identified the possible cases from roughly 108 interviews of people who ate at the buffet-style Old South Restaurant on DeKalb Street on Thursday.
By Monday afternoon, 16 people had been hospitalized at four hospitals, Reese said. Among patient symptoms were nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fever.
Kershaw County Coroner Johnny Fellers said his office is investigating the death either late Saturday or early Sunday of Camden resident James Arledge, 58, who exhibited similar symptoms but otherwise appeared healthy.
Reese confirmed that Arledge ate at Old South Restaurant on Thursday and that DHEC is investigating his death.
“We are looking into a death that may or may not be related to this illness,” said Fellers, adding that autopsy results were expected late today.
Salmonella usually comes from undercooked poultry products. Reese said it could take up to two weeks for DHEC’s investigation to identify the food source at Old South.
Jan Easterling, a DHEC spokesperson, said there have been six other potential food-borne outbreak investigations in South Carolina restaurants this year.
Meanwhile, the popular country buffet restaurant received an “A” rating during a DHEC inspection Monday, Reese said, the highest a restaurant can get and which it must maintain to stay open. Old South held the same rating before Thursday.
“Everything turned up fine,” Reese said, adding that the restaurant has not had previous problems with DHEC.
Reese said she did not know what affect it would have on the restaurant’s status if the death was linked to salmonella contracted at the restaurant.
Phone calls Monday to the restaurant were unanswered.
Of 11 patients at Kershaw County Medical Center on Monday, one had been discharged, and the others were in stable condition, president Donnie Weeks said. The conditions of another patient who checked into the center late Monday and others who sought treatment at Providence Northeast, Providence Hospital and Palmetto Health Richland were not known.
In the meantime, some of Old South’s regular customers were taking a wait-and-see approach.
Construction worker Alfred Lewis of Camden last ate there Friday, dining on eggs, grits, potatoes, apple sauce, biscuits and jelly.
“It was delicious,” he said.
Lewis said he will wait before going back, adding if the restaurant is cleared, he will “probably” be eating there again soon.
Staff writer Lauren Leach contributed to this report.Reach Rupon at (803) 771-8622 or firstname.lastname@example.org.