Salmonella poisoning alleged at local restaurant


BENTONVILLE — Two Bentonville families are considering legal action against a restaurant here after alleged cases of salmonella poisoning occurred within the last week.

Seattle, Wash.-based attorney Drew Falkenstein with Marler Clark said two families contacted him this week to consider filing a lawsuit against Sushi King, 2501 S. E. 14 th St.

A doctor alerted the Arkansas Department of Health of a possible salmonella outbreak Monday, according to environmental health specialist John Wham.

Cultures obtained from the doctor were later confirmed to be salmonella, Wham said. The department quickly inspected Sushi King that same day — Monday.

Inspectors have returned to Sushi King nearly every day this week, Wham said Friday. He expects the lab results to be back by Wednesday. "We were aware earlier in the week of an increasing number of salmonella reports from the medical community," said Hazel Mabry, a state Health Department communicabledisease nurse specialist who covers Washington and Benton counties.

Sushi King owner John Wei said he has been working closely with the Health Department this week. "The last three days, we have been intensely under health inspections," he said Thursday. "They took all the samples to see if this bacteria originated here."

Falkenstein was contacted by the two families because his firm specializes in salmonella cases nationwide. The first thing people do is go to the Internet, he said, where Marler Clark has a large presence. "If you type in ‘salmonella lawyer,’ we’re the first thing that pops up," he said. Marler Clark handled a salmonella case in the central Arkansas city of Benton in May 2005. "I know from firsthand conversations with one of the families that contacted us, that they’ve been in contact with the Health Department," Falkenstein said. "One of the girls from one of the families that we talked with actually lost her appendix as a result of this."

Salmonella poisoning is often misdiagnosed as appendicitis before evidence of salmonella poisoning is available, through no fault of the doctors, Falkenstein said. "We’re not dealing with tummy aches," he said.

The Health Department usually receives a tip from a doctor in a situation like this. "This is what we want to go on," Mabry said. "We want our medical community to report communicable disease to us so we can investigate and hopefully prevent a spread in the community."

Environmental health specialists with the department conduct routine inspections on restaurants twice a year. Other investigations take place regularly.

Thursday, Mabry said there had been no complaints from the public about this situation.

Deborah Pledger, the Bentonville School District nurse, sent a warning e-mail to Bentonville School District staff Friday afternoon.

The e-mail, which The Daily Record received, states: "If you have a family member, or know of someone who has eaten at Sushi King in the last two weeks, and have become ill with severe (abdominal) pain, vomiting, diarrhea and high temperatures, … contact the Benton County Health Unit. There have been numerous reports of people becoming ill after eating there. They are suspecting people have been infected with salmonella. I do know the Health Department has been inundated with phone calls regarding this situation and are working with Sushi King to correct the problem." Salmonella fact sheet What is salmonellosis?

Salmonellosis is a bacterial infection that usually affects the intestines and occasionally the bloodstream. It is one of the more common causes of gastroenteritis, with several hundred cases occurring in Arkansas each year.

Most cases occur in the summer months and are seen as single cases, clusters or outbreaks. What are the symptoms of salmonellosis? People exposed to the salmonella bacteria may have diarrhea, cramping, fever, nausea, vomiting and headache. Some people may have very mild or no symptoms, but some infections can be quite serious, especially in the very young or the elderly.

Source: Arkansas Department of Health