Resort patrons keep health bureau busy with calls about illness More than 200 diners may have been stricken with gastroenteritis

September 24, 1998|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Another 100 people who may have been stricken by bacteria in food served at the Turf Valley Resort and Conference Center in Ellicott City last weekend flooded the Howard County Department of Health yesterday with calls seeking information on the outbreak.

That brings to more than 200 the number of people who may have suffered stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting after attending half a dozen events at the golf resort on U.S. 40 Saturday.

"Every time I turn around, I see one of our nurses on the phone filling out a report," said Dr. Willa Brown, acting health officer for the department's Bureau of Personal Health. "People can't get through on the phones because they're all taken up."

The investigation into what caused the outbreak is continuing.

"We're still gathering information," said Frank A. Skinner, director of the department's Bureau of Environmental Health, which is working with Turf Valley and the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

"We don't believe it's ongoing, but we're trying to piece everything back together so that we can prevent it from occurring in the future."

The outbreak of gastroenteritis is the first of its kind at Turf Valley. A review of site inspection records, beginning with April 1997, show that the catering service at the resort has been cited for only minor infractions unrelated to food or food preparation and has never been flagged for a critical violation.

Skinner said no sanctions would be handed down before the investigation is completed.

"In this kind of situation, we're trying to determine what the problem was," Skinner said. "We're not looking for fault."

Gastroenteritis is an infection of the digestive tract and is usually passed on by food handlers who do not thoroughly wash fecal matter off their hands before preparing meals.

The incubation period ranges from 12 to 36 hours, and symptoms usually last 24 hours.

An estimated 1,500 people dined at Turf Valley on Saturday.

Although health officials have isolated the outbreak to events on Saturday, local and state health officials are asking everyone who attended events Sunday and Monday to call 410-313-7500.

Regina Ford, director of marketing for Turf Valley, did not return several requests for comment.

Brown said the callers -- a majority of whom are from Howard County -- are eager to provide information.

"They're not belligerent," she said. "They want to find out what's going on and give any information to help us out."

Pub Date: 9/24/98

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