Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Staff Report
Public health officials are investigating an E. coli outbreak apparently linked to the Captain’s Galley restaurant in China Grove.
As of Thursday morning, laboratory tests had confirmed four cases of E. coli illness, and officials considered nine more probable E. coli infections, though they are awaiting lab tests.
Several other possible cases are under active investigation, according to a Rowan County Health Department press release.
The four confirmed cases had all eaten at Captain’s Galley between May 26 and 29, according to Rowan County Health Director Leonard Wood.
The restaurant owner, who refused to give his name, said he didn’t want to comment on the situation Thursday afternoon.
Wood also said officials were still investigating, and he couldn’t say exactly how many others with suspected cases had also eaten at the restaurant.
Health officials were careful to say that they had found no source for the E. coli inside Captain’s Galley.
Wood said officials are still investigating and don’t have enough information yet to identify if the source is food or a person.
The restaurant has not been shut down, but Wood said that was still an option.
If the outbreak is self-limiting, Wood said he saw no reason to close the Captain’s Galley. But if it’s an ongoing issue and others continue to fall ill, Health Department officials will strongly consider action.
The Health Department release also recommended that anyone who ate at the restaurant on or after May 26 who develop diarrhea see a doctor immediately.
E. coli can cause serious disease with lasting effects, and severe cases can progress to fatal kidney failure, especially in young children.
E. coli is a bacterial infection that affects the stomach and intestines. People are usually infected by eating food or drinking contaminated beverages or, sometimes, coming in contact with other infected people.
Symptoms include diarrhea, stomach pain or vomiting. Diarrhea may be bloody and infectious and can be severe, especially in young children and the elderly.
Early medical care, including treatment with IV fluids, is important. The state communicable disease branch recommends that individuals experiencing these symptoms contact their medical provider for appropriate treatment.
Secondary infectionsógetting the illness from someone else who is or has been illóare also a concern.
“The best way to reduce the risk of getting E. coli from another person is thorough hand-washing,” Wood wrote in the local department’s press release.
In most cases, a person with E. coli may have diarrhea or vomiting for a few days and then begin to get better. However, the risk of transmitting the infection may continue for up to three weeks because the bacterium is still found in bowel movements, according to the release.
Coming in contact with even small amounts of harmful types of E. coli can cause illness. So, it is very important that anyone who is recovering from a stomach illness continue to carefully wash their hands and use preventive measures to ensure they do not pass their illness to others, the release said.
For more information about E. coli infections, call the Health Department at 704-216-8875 and 704-216-8846.