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Gulfport restaurant remains closed; more than 50 infected

Thursday, January 12, 2017 23:17
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A Gulfport, MS, restaurant remains closed as state officials investigate an outbreak of unusual E. coli infections among people who ate there during the last two weeks of 2016.

Captain Al’s Steak and Seafood Restaurant was closed by public health officials on Jan. 4 after more than 50 people reported becoming ill, according to a health advisory from the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH).

“Molecular testing at the Mississippi Public Health Laboratory has indicated that the causative organisms are types of E. coli referred to as enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC) and enteroaggregative E. coli (EAEC),” according to the state health department’s advisory.

“These types of E. coli are not Shiga toxin-producing E.coli (STEC), but are known to cause significant diarrheal illness. Routine stool cultures are unable to identify EPEC and EAEC, but they can be identified through PCR testing available through reference laboratories.”

In the health advisory, state epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers reported symptoms began for the victims between two hours and six days after eating at Captain Al’s. The reported dates of exposure were from Dec. 16-30, 2016.

As of Wednesday the state had identified more than 50 people who developed acute gastroenteritis after eating at the restaurant. The primary symptoms reported and the percentage of victims reporting each symptom are:

  • diarrhea 83 percent;
  • stomach cramps 76 percent;
  • chills 57 percent;
  • headache 51 percent;
  • nausea 39 percent;
  • fever 34; and
  • bloody stools 13 percent.

The symptoms lasted for 5 to 21 days, with a median illness length of 10 days, according to the state. Of the more than 50 sick people, 21 sought medical attention and one person had to be admitted to a hospital.

Officials from the state health department are working with the restaurant owner and operator to make sure there are no problems that could endanger public health before Captain Al’s will be allowed to reopen.

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