Illness affects center guests 100 people stricken with food poisoning at Turf Valley

Source is undetermined

Health officials urge those at events there on weekend to call

September 23, 1998|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

More than 100 people who dined at the Turf Valley Resort and Conference Center in Ellicott City on Saturday have been stricken with food poisoning, local and state health officials announced yesterday.

Officials said an estimated 1,500 guests attended about a dozen events, ranging from wedding receptions to anniversary dinners to birthday parties, at the banquet facility at the center on U.S. 40 that day.

Officials said they didn't know which events might have caused the outbreak of gastroenteritis.

"The investigation is currently under way to determine the agent and source of the out break," Frank A. Skinner, director of the Bureau of Environmental Health for the Howard County Department of Health, said at a news conference at Turf Valley. "We're just beginning our investigation."

Officials said some guests were so ill that they were sent to hospitals for fluid treatment, but they did not know how many people required such treatment.

They are urging guests at events Saturday, Sunday and Monday at Turf Valley to call the county Health Department at 410-313-7500.

"This is a large number," acknowledged Dr. Frank Blythe of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. "Some of these individuals are getting better, but we're still collecting information."

Calls started Monday

Skinner and Joseph LaVerghetta, an attorney for the Mangione family, which owns Turf Valley, said guests who became sick began flooding the phone lines Monday afternoon.

Turf Valley officials then contacted hosts and hostesses in charge of organizing events at the center, some of whom reported similar illnesses.

"We have had experts and nurses on these grounds looking into the matter," LaVerghetta said. "We're looking at every aspect."

Gastroenteritis is an infection of the gastrointestinal tract, which is part of the digestive system, Blythe said.

Most common cause

Blythe said the most common cause of gastroenteritis involves a server or attendant who fails to thoroughly wash fecal matter off his or her hands and then handles food that is served to guests.

The incubation period is usually 12 to 36 hours, and symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and severe stomach cramping, Blythe said.

For events at the center's banquet facility, Turf Valley prepares and cooks its food, LaVerghetta said.

After center officials received complaints, they disposed of the suspected food, sanitized the kitchen and shut down the banquet facility until further notice, LaVerghetta said.

Skinner said that an inspection last month of the facility and its kitchen yielded "nothing remarkable."

John Mangione, whose family has operated Turf Valley Resort for 20 years, said his family would pay for any medical bills incurred by guests.

"This is our first experience of this nature," Mangione said. "We are taking all steps to protect the health and comfort of our guests."

Pub Date: 9/23/98

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