Eight people contracted a gastrointestinal illness linked to a downtown Cortland restaurant, which has been temporarily closed, county health officials said Wednesday.
The eight people ate between Oct. 18 and Oct. 31 at Wild Ginger Fusion restaurant, exposing them to campylobacteriosis, caused by the campylobacter bacteria, typically linked to raw or undercooked chicken, said Catherine Feuerherm, Cortland County’s public health director.
“We’ve not had an outbreak in many years in this county,” Feuerherm said.
“Most illnesses often occur due to eating raw or undercooked poultry or to eating something that touched it,” states a news release from the department. The bacteria causes an estimated 1.3 million illnesses each year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On Wednesday, a sign posted on the restaurant door stated the restaurant was closed temporarily.
The company is handling the issue internally and has hired a third-party sanitation company to clean the kitchen, said Don Ware, the county’s supervising public health sanitarian.
“They voluntarily closed to do some clean up,” he said, noting the company is following CDC guidelines.
Once the cleaning is done, county health officials will inspect the restaurant, although no date was given on when that would occur.
“We try to get everyone reopened as soon as possible,” Feuerherm said. “The owners and managers are cooperating fully with everything.”
The owners could not be reached for comment.
The restaurant’s last inspection was Sept. 12 after a kitchen fire caused the restaurant to temporarily shut down. Before that, the restaurant had been inspected in March.
Feuerherm said the county tries to inspect high risk restaurants — restaurants that do a lot of their own preparation — twice a year. However, complaints or incidents like an outbreak could cause more inspections.
Feuerherm said the sanitation department collected samples of food and sent them for tests at a state health lab in Albany to confirm what caused the outbreak.
However, Feuerherm said due to the nature of the bacteria they may not be able to determine the source of the outbreak.
“This particular bacteria, it’s not easy to find after a certain amount of time,” she said. “There’s a window there for confirmation,”
She said they will know in the next few days if a source was determined.
Illness symptoms include diarrhea, often bloody, a fever and abdominal cramps. People may also experience nausea and vomiting.
The symptoms usually start in two to five days after being exposed and will last around a week. Some people may not experience symptoms, the news release stated.
People can recover from the illness on their own, but some people, such as those with weakened immune systems, may need medical attention.
“While gastrointestinal illness is never pleasant, campylobacteriosis is usually self-limiting and most people recover without treatment,” Feuerherm said in the release. “We ask that anyone experiencing symptoms wash their hands frequently and be excluded from working in food handling jobs and in caring for vulnerable people in daycares, nursing homes and hospitals during time of infection.”
Anyone with questions can call the Cortland County Health Department at 607-753-5028, option 4.