Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

After 60 become ill, Health Department investigates possible norovirus in Spring Hill

SPRING HILL — For Bob and Julia James, it was a typical Sunday dinner with three friends at one of their favorite Spring Hill restaurants. They both ordered a fish entree and took a trip to the salad bar.

But a few hours later, the couple began feeling queasy.

Antacids didn't help. Nothing could quell the violent vomiting and diarrhea that followed for the next two days, they said. In addition, two of the three people they dined with that evening also got sick.

Ten days after the meal that sickened them, the Jameses say they are still weak and have only been able to eat small meals.

"It really knocked us down," Julia James, 73, said Wednesday. "Neither one of us has ever been this sick."

Hernando County Health Department spokeswoman Ann-Gayl Ellis said at least 60 people have complained of a severe gastrointestinal illness, many of whom ate at the same mom-and-pop restaurant on U.S. 19 between March 6 and March 11.

Ellis would not name the restaurant because the matter is still under investigation, but said nearly all of the complaints were linked to the same restaurant. The Times is withholding the name of the restaurant as well.

A joint inspection by Ellis' agency and the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which licenses Florida restaurants, found only minimal violations pertaining to food preparation, service and storage. Such violations normally are not cause to shut down a restaurant, Ellis said.

Based on the similarities of the symptoms, the investigation is centering around a possible contamination by a food-borne norovirus, which can be transferred by food, water and from person to person.

Ellis said that stool samples were collected from customers and restaurant employees and sent to a Tampa laboratory. The tests should be completed within the next few days.

Ellis said the agency did not want to name the restaurant during the investigation because the illness has not be positively linked to the restaurant or any of its employees.

"It could be a crazy, coincidental thing," she said.

While not identifying the specific restaurant may leave the dining public suspicious of conditions at all Spring Hill eateries, the Health Department noted precautions people can take to avoid becoming ill.

These steps include washing their hands frequently; carefully washing fruits and vegetables; and cooking food thoroughly; cleaning and disinfecting contaminated surfaces after an episode of illness; and removing and washing clothing or linens that may be contaminated with a virus.

Bob James believes that the problem may involve the restaurant's salad bar. Of the four people who dined with him and his wife, the only person who didn't get sick was the one who didn't eat salad, he said. "I don't know what else it could be," said James, 76.

Ellis said that her agency has not been able to determine whether any food was the source of the virus.

Julia James said that the restaurant has been a favorite dining spot, and that they typically eat there a couple of times each month.

Although she called the restaurant to let them know what had happened, she has yet to get a return call from the owners.

As for now, she has no plans to ever return.

"From what we went through, who could blame us?" James said. "Even if they were to offer free food, I don't think I could do it."

Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or [email protected]

After 60 become ill, Health Department investigates possible norovirus in Spring Hill 03/16/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 6:34pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review: Bruno Mars' charisma glitters like gold at Tampa's Amalie Arena


    Nothing in this world should be as easy as Bruno Mars makes it look. Not singing, not dancing, and certainly not playfully seducing more than 17,500 starry-eyed Tampa fans with one of pop music’s best bands at your back.

    Bruno Mars performed at Tampa's Amalie Arena on Oct. 19, 2017.
  2. Mikhail Sergachev scores twice as Lightning shuts out Blue Jackets (w/ video)

    Lightning Strikes

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Mikhail Sergachev said he blacked out for a few seconds after his first NHL goal Thursday night, a rocket slap shot from the point.

    Mikhail Sergachev, front, looks like he’s very in the moment with teammate Dan Girardi after scoring his first NHL goal, though he says he blacked out for a bit. He scores again in the second.
  3. Dodgers rout Cubs 11-1 to win pennant, head to World Series for first time since '88


    CHICAGO — Enrique Hernandez put a Hollywood ending on an LA story three decades in the making.

    The Dodgers celebrate their Game 5 victory Thursday night over the Cubs at Wrigley Field, putting Los Angeles in the World Series for the first time since 1988.
  4. Another suspicious death in Tampa's Seminole Heights


    TAMPA — Police were investigating what they were calling a suspicious death in southeast Seminole Heights Thursday night, near the location of two fatal shootings last week.

    Interim Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan addresses reporters about the latest suspicious death in southeast Seminole Heights Thursday night. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL | Times]
  5. Duke tops preseason coaches' basketball poll; Gators No. 7


    Duke has been tabbed basketball's preseason No. 1 for the second straight season in the coaches' poll, released Thursday.

    Florida point guard Chris Chiozza launches the shot of last season’s NCAA Tournament, a winning 3
against Wisconsin that put the Gators into the Elite Eight. Chiozza returns to lead a UF team that’s getting its share of preseason attention, including a No. 7 ranking in the coaches’ poll.