Casa Fiesta Salmonella Outbreak Yields First Lawsuit

A man who claims he fell violently ill with <"">Salmonella poisoning after eating at Casa Fiesta in late April is suing the restaurant. Kody Dewitt, who is seeking over $25,000 in damages for the hospital bills and hardships he claims he suffered from eating Salmonella-tainted food at Casa Fiesta, filed the lawsuit in Huron County Common Pleas Court this week. The lawsuit follows an Ohio Department of Health investigation into 26 confirmed cases of Salmonella food poisoning wherein all of the patients ate at Casa Fiesta at 196 Milan Avenue, according to Tim Hollinger, Huron County health commissioner.

The lawsuit contends that soon after Dewitt ate at Casa Fiesta on April 25, he fell terribly ill, requiring hospitalization; he lost wages because of the Salmonella poisoning; and he sustained bodily injury and permanent damage that will forever limit his earning capability. Local news agencies report that other people who claim they were sickened by Salmonella-tainted food at Casa Fiesta plan to sue.

Although all 26 cases involved people who ate at the restaurant, health officials remain unclear as to the contamination source and laboratory tests on the food samples came back negative, health department officials said. “If you ask the 26 what they ate, they all ate something different,” Hollinger said. “It can be on ice, it can be in vegetables, it can be in meat. It can be anywhere.” Test results on staff are expected no earlier than Friday, health officials said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said about 40,000 cases of salmonellosis are reported annually. Salmonella can occur when food is improperly stored or handled and when preparers do not wash their hands or do not sanitize implements involved in meat storage. Salmonella is a common organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain and cramping within 12 to 72 hours of infection. Laboratory testing is required to determine the presence of Salmonella; additional testing can determine the specific type and which antibiotics are needed. Generally, the illness lasts a week and most recover without treatment; however, in some, hospitalization is required because the infection may have spread from the intestines to the blood stream and other body sites.

Without treatment—antibiotics—severe cases of Salmonella can result in death; however, some Salmonella bacteria are resistant to antibiotics, largely due to the use of antibiotics to promote the growth of feed animals. A small number of persons infected with Salmonella will go on to develop pains in their joints, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination—a condition called Reiter’s syndrome—which can last for months or years and can lead to chronic arthritis; antibiotic treatment does not make a difference in whether or not the person later develops arthritis. The 26 cases under review by the health department all show the “classic symptoms,” Hollinger said. None showed signs of developing into Reiter’s.

Meanwhile, two women who were hospitalized for several weeks in 2006 due to E. coli infections linked to tainted lettuce in a Wendy’s meal are suing the popular fast food chain for an unspecified amount.

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