Carroll hepatitis alert issued illness investigated in Howard

Eldersburg case linked to food handler

100 stricken at Turf Valley

September 23, 1998|By Edward Lee and Mary Gail Hare | Edward Lee and Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Brenda J. Buote, Sheridan Lyons and Dennis O'Brien contributed to this article.

An article in yesterday's Maryland section about a hepatitis warning in Carroll County gave the wrong first name for Dr. David Blythe of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygeine.

The Sun regrets the error.

As many as 3,000 people who ate at a Wendy's Restaurant in Eldersburg this month may have been exposed to hepatitis, and more than 100 people were stricken with food poisoning after eating at an Ellicott City conference center Saturday, health officials said.

The Carroll County incident was linked to a former Wendy's food handler who tested positive for hepatitis, while the cause of the Ellicott City incident was being investigated yesterday.


Wedding guests and patrons who ate Saturday at the Turf Valley Resort and Conference Center on U.S. 40 in Ellicott City suffered gastroenteritis, an infection of the gastrointestinal tract that causes vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramping, according to state and Howard County health officials.

Health officials said that some Turf Valley guests became so ill that they were given fluid treatment at area hospitals and they urged guests who attended events there on Saturday, Sunday and Monday to contact the Howard County Health Department.

About 1,500 guests attended about a dozen events, ranging from wedding receptions to birthday parties, but health officials said they did not know which events may have been the origin of the outbreak.

Dr. Frank Blythe of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said he would not know the cause of the outbreak at Turf Valley for about two weeks, but that gastroenteritis usually is caused by waiters or food handlers who fail to thoroughly wash fecal matter from their hands and handle food served to guests.

In a separate announcement, Carroll County health officials said a former food handler at the Wendy's Restaurant in Eldersburg tested positive for hepatitis A, a contagious virus that is seldom fatal but can cause stomach flu-like symptoms.

The officials asked that anyone who ate at the Wendy's between Sept. 8 and Sept. 12 contact them for free shots of immune globulin, which contains synthetic antibodies that can help prevent the disease.

'Dangerous' disease

"This is a dangerous, communicable disease," said Larry L. Leitch, Carroll County health officer. "The community needs to be aware so we can interrupt its spread. We want people to take this seriously."

Patrons who ate at the Wendy's between Sept. 1 and Sept. 7 also may have been exposed, but the immune globulin shot would not be effective for them because the antibody can prevent or limit the disease for up to two weeks from the time of exposure, experts said.

Hepatitis A is an oral-fecal virus, meaning it is spread when infected people fail to wash their hands after going to the bathroom.

Health officials said that the hepatitis was spread by a food handler who had worked at the Wendy's and who was not wearing protective gloves when she worked.

FTC Wendy's officials said last night that the employee worked at the restaurant for about two weeks before she was fired Sept. 11 for bad work habits.

"We've had no indication of other employees having hepatitis A and no complaints from any of our customers," said Dave Norman, general counsel for DAVCO, which operates the Wendy's franchise. "We intend to do everything necessary to protect the safety of our guests."

Food handler infectious

Carroll County health officials were notified after the worker was admitted to Carroll County General Hospital in Westminster, and Debbie Middleton, a nurse at the hospital, determined that the worker had been infectious earlier this month.

Dr. Michael Kerr, an emergency room physician at Carroll County General Hospital, said that about 40 percent of the population will likely contract hepatitis A during their lives, and that it is fatal in less than 0.1 percent of all cases.

"It's most dangerous for the elderly, for feeble seniors," Kerr said.

"Symptoms mirror a stomach flu," Kerr said. "They can range from slight nausea to severe diarrhea, intense cramping and even jaundice," a yellowing of the skin and eyes.

Carroll County health officials said that 3,000 doses of immune globulin shots, ordered yesterday by the county at a cost of $46,000 in response to the incident, would be available from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. tomorrow and Friday at Springfield Hospital Center's Medical Surgical building in Sykesville.

Those interested should call the Carroll County Health Department at 410-876-4900.

Turf Valley guests who attended events at the conference center Saturday, Sunday or Monday are asked to call the Howard County Health Department at 410-313-7500.

John Mangione, whose family operates Turf Valley, said his family would pay medical bills incurred by guests.

Pub Date: 9/23/98

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