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Salmonella poisoning tally hits 67

More confirmed cases likely during check of 18-day period at Brook-Lea

Corydon Ireland, Democrat and Chronicle

June 27, 2002

An outbreak of salmonella food poisoning this month has so far yielded 67 confirmed cases, the Monroe County Health Department said Wednesday.

More confirmed cases are likely, said spokesman John Ricci, because investigators are looking into "more than two dozen events" during an 18-day period at Brook-Lea Country Club on Pixley Road.

Most, but not all, of the cases so far have been linked to the private club, he said.

The number of people retaining legal counsel is going up, too. Marler Clark, a Seattle personal injury law firm, now has 12 clients with confirmed cases of the poisoning who had eaten at Brook-Lea, said legal assistant Colin B. Caywood.

Salmonella food poisoning -- salmonellosis -- is caused by one or more strains of salmonella, a bacterium found in the feces of humans or animals.

The disabling abdominal illness -- which can last up to seven days -- is usually linked to improper food handling or contaminated produce such as eggs, poultry or fresh fruit.

Ricci called the Brook-Lea salmonella outbreak "unusual" because it lasted so long and apparently involved so many events. "It's not your classic food outbreak," he said.

Typical outbreaks can be traced to one event on one day and involve a known number of potential victims.

County health authorities late Tuesday allowed Brook-Lea to reopen its kitchen, with restrictions. Workers have to be contractors -- or if they are from Brook-Lea, they must be medically cleared.

The club's kitchen has been commercially cleaned, along with all utensils, dishes, glassware and other equipment. And any food that could harbor bacteria has been discarded.

"Other than from a perception standpoint," said Ricci, eating at Brook-Lea "should be like eating anywhere else."

In a statement released late Wednesday, Brook-Lea officials pledged continued "full cooperation" with county health investigators.

Among steps the club has taken: "significant personnel changes" in the kitchen staff and "in the immediate future" a mandatory "comprehensive training program" in food handling for kitchen staff.

"All of us at Brook-Lea deeply regret the discomfort, disruption and inconvenience that this illness has caused for those who were infected and for their families," the statement read. "We are making every possible effort to resolve this problem and to eliminate the possibility of a recurrence."

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