Fayetteville, N.C. — An outbreak of salmonella in Cumberland County appears to have peaked at 103 cases, health officials said Wednesday.
There have been no new cases of the bacterial infection reported since May 15, Cumberland County Public Health Director Buck Wilson said.
All the sickened patients reported eating at the Holiday Inn Bordeaux in Fayetteville last month, and at least five were hospitalized. However, the department is still trying to pinpoint the source of the contamination, he said.
Lacey Townsend, 27, is one of three people who has filed a lawsuit seeking damages from Aroma Hotels LLC, which operates the Holiday Inn Bordeaux. The hotel has two restaurants - All American Sports Bar and Grill and The Café Bordeaux – as well as a banquet kitchen.
Townsend says she ate at the hotel last month, and what happened after that sent her to the hospital twice. She tested positive for salmonella bacteria, which can cause severe gastrointestinal distress.
“I have given birth to two children, and the pain that sent me to the hospital at the second time was worse than any labor that I have ever been in,” she said.
Townsend lives in Asheville and was visiting Fayetteville on business. She said three of her co-workers also got sick.
“It's just definitely the worst, worst pain,” Townsend send. “I will be more careful about checking sanitation ratings in the future.”
A March restaurant inspection at the Holiday Inn Bordeaux found critical violations. Inspectors say an employee did not wash his hands between preparing food and serving customers, and plates with food debris on them were found stored on the clean dish rack.
Still, health officials say they have not found the source of the bacteria, which is transmitted through contaminated food or water or contact with an infected animal or person. More than a dozen hotel employees were among the infected.
Holiday Inn Bordeux Manager Scooter Deal said he also wants to know the source. He has been cooperating with health officials and says the workers have received extra training on food safety.
The restaurant has reopened.
Townsend, a vegan, has her own theory about what made her sick.
"It was on the breakfast bar,” she said. “They had mixed fruit, mixed melons.”