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Spring Hill diners' illness caused by norovirus

BROOKSVILLE — A report issued Wednesday by the Hernando County Health Department shed some new light on a mysterious illness that left dozens of residents stricken in recent weeks.

The Health Department confirmed that more than 100 people who became sick after dining at or who were in contact with someone who dined at Kally K's Steakery & Fishery, 3383 Commercial Way, in Spring Hill between March 6 and 11 were stricken by a norovirus.

According to the report, at least one employee of the restaurant tested positive for the virus, which is a leading cause of gastroenteritis. Symptoms can include severe vomiting, diarrhea and weakness that can last one or two days.

An investigation was conducted jointly by the Health Department and state Department of Business and Professional Regulation on March 14 after more than 100 complaints had been received.

An inspection of the restaurant yielded two violations, one of which was listed as critical: An inspector noted that an employee engaged in food preparation had not washed his or her hands prior to handling food and equipment or when changing gloves.

The second violation dealt with cleaned and sanitized equipment, utensils, linens or other items that were not properly stored, according to the DBPR.

Kally K's manager and restaurant owner Christina Malo was not available for comment late Wednesday. However, last week, she told the St. Petersburg Times that the inspection was a routine review conducted every two to three months and was not based on a complaint.

The illness, which was first reported by the Health Department on March 15, fueled rampant speculation in the community about the name of the restaurant, which was not named previously by the Health Department because of the ongoing investigation.

At least one area business, Nellie's Restaurant on U.S. 19 in Spring Hill, reported a sharp drop in customers that the owner attributed to the suspicion raised by the department's decision not to name the suspect restaurant.

According to the report, the owner of Kally K's has agreed to comply with recommendations by the Health Department that no employees who tested positive for the virus be involved with food handling or preparations until followup tests are negative.

No complaints of illness after March 12 have been reported, the report said.

Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or lneill@sptimes.com.

Spring Hill diners' illness caused by norovirus 03/23/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 8:21pm]
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