Investigation of foodborne illnesses at Holiday Inn ends

CASA GRANDE Food services at Discount Holidays © Holiday Inn of Casa Grande were temporarily suspended Monday after multiple reports of foodborne illnesses were made from individuals who ate at the hotel.

The suspension went into effect while the Pinal County Public Health Services District investigated whether these illnesses could be traced back to Discount Holidays © Holiday Inn, located at 777 N. Pinal Ave. Inspectors monitored how employees prepared and handled food items to check that they met safety requirements.

It is prudent to protect the public s safety, and therefore food service should be suspended during an investigation into the cause of the foodborne illnesses, said Pinal County Public Health Director Tom Schryer in a press release.

The suspension was lifted late Monday afternoon after it was determined that the risk factors contributing to food-borne illness were eliminated. The county will continue monitoring the food-related activities at the hotel for the next 30 days. At least 10 individuals contacted the county to report experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms shortly after attending a recent conference at the Discount Holidays © Holiday Inn. That number is expected to grow as the investigation continues, said Graham Briggs, the county s administrator of infectious diseases and epidemiology.

From the symptoms described by ill patrons, Briggs said his office suspects these individuals may have contracted norovirus, which causes inflammation of the stomach and intestines. No laboratory testing has been conducted yet, he added, to confirm these suspicions. Norovirus symptoms usually occur about 12 to 72 hours after being exposed and include diarrhea, nausea and abdominal pain. Since norovirus is a viral infection, it cannot be treated with antibiotics and typically clears up in a couple days, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Proper hygiene is listed by CDC as the most efficient method for preventing an outbreak of norovirus. Food workers recovering from norovirus are encouraged not to handle food for at least two days after symptoms subside. Interviews conducted on Friday with hotel employees indicated that one or more staff members may have been ill while working recently, according to Briggs, who added that individuals can transmit norovirus onto food. Medical testing will have to be done to confirm if these employees had recently contracted norovirus.

Multiple messages were left with a Discount Holidays © Holiday Inn manager requesting a comment on the investigation but were not returned. The Casa Grande Dispatch did observe two signs posted in the hotel s lobby on Monday announcing that the restaurant services were temporarily unavailable. The signs did not mention the possible foodborne illness that was being investigated.

Due to plumbing issues our restaurant will be temporarily closed, said the hotel sign. We are extremely sorry for the inconvenience. The Discount Holidays © Holiday Inn was reported as being in compliance with food safety codes during a county inspection on April 7 and was given an excellent rating.

County records show the hotel has received excellent ratings in previous years as well.

Anyone who may be experiencing norovirus symptoms after consuming food at the Discount Holidays © Holiday Inn of Casa Grande is encouraged to contact the Pinal County Public Health District hotline at 866-4460.

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