Food handler said to be cause of Howard virus outbreak Health officials close probe at Turf Valley Resort

October 06, 1998|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

State and local health officials have concluded that a sick employee who was handling food transmitted a virus to more than 350 guests who dined at Turf Valley Resort and Conference Center in Ellicott City last month.

The determination closed a three-week investigation into an outbreak of a Norwalk-like virus that caused vomiting and diarrhea, officials said.

"This was your common, garden-variety virus that can cause flu-like conditions," said Tori Leonard, state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene spokeswoman. "It's like having a 24-hour bug."

Howard County health officials gave the resort the green light to reopen full food service at its three facilities after Turf Valley officials submitted copies of their menus.

"We wanted them to start up slow so that we would know if they could [serve food], and they have," said Frank Skinner, director of the department's Bureau of Environmental Health. He added that no sanctions would be levied.

More than 350 people who attended about a half-dozen events between Sept. 17 and 22 reported feeling ill. Turf Valley officials notified health officials, who closed the resort's kitchens, ordered medical tests for every employee and set up a hot line for guests.

Officials have determined that the cause of the outbreak was a Norwalk-like virus. It is transmitted to people who come in contact with an infected person's excrement or who eat or drink contaminated food or water.

Health officials believe that an employee with the virus -- who has not been identified because of confidentiality rules -- handled cold food items such as deli meats and vegetables.

Although the outbreak was the first of its kind at Turf Valley, Leonard said it proved that employees can't be too careful with ** personal hygiene habits.

"Wash your hands," she advised. "It's a low-tech solution that can go a long way."

Pub Date: 10/06/98

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