One person has died following an outbreak of food poisoning linked to a barbecue restaurant in North Carolina that has sickened nearly 250 so far, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said. Officials have identified the bacteria Salmonella as the source of infection in an illness that can cause diarrhea, stomach pain and vomiting. Media outlets reported that the restaurant in question, Tarheel Q, had reopened Wednesday morning.
The vast majority of infections occurred in residents of North Carolina, but people from six other states were sickened as well. At least 12 of those sickened were hospitalized, and six lawsuits have been filed against the restaurant, which sits along Highway 64 in Lexington, North Carolina. It closed temporarily on June 24 “in an effort to regain our customers’ trust,” local news channel WFMY reported, with plans to reopen several days later.
The restaurant has been cited previously for failing to keep foods at appropriate temperatures and leaving leftover food to cool off before reheating it. Trey Payne, the owner of Tarheel Q, has said that the restaurant will now follow a different protocol. "We are going to keep it hot so that the temperature does not go down and then go back up, which can cause bacteria to grow," he said.
The outbreak dates back to June 6, according to the North Carolina health department, which has been collecting information to determine the scope of the outbreak. So far, it has found that of 248 cases reported, 20 percent had seen a doctor, 13 percent had been to the emergency room, six percent had been hospitalized, and one person had died. Nearly 80 percent of those afflicted became sick between June 16 and June 21.
Salmonella typically causes diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps that can last anywhere from four days to one week, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In severe cases, patients may be hospitalized. Salmonella causes approximately one million illnesses annually in the U.S., leading to 19,000 hospitalizations and 380 deaths.