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Rochester restaurant affected by E. coli outbreak

Rochester restaurant affected by E. coli outbreak

An E. coli outbreak at a Rochester restaurant in September left at least eight people sick, health officials said this week.

All eight confirmed cases came from eating contaminated food at Damsy Restaurant, 405 1st Ave SW, between Sept. 11 and 30. Four people were hospitalized as a result of the outbreak, according to Kari Etrheim, information officer for Olmsted County Public Health. All have since been treated and released.

Among those who became ill from the potentially deadly food pathogen was a two-year-old girl. The child's father has since filed a lawsuit against Damsy, alleging that his daughter "was sickened with a Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infection after eating at that facility on or about September 14, 2017."

The symptoms of an E. coli infection include diarrhea which is usually bloody and/or watery, a mild fever, and severe and painful abdominal cramps. Most people start getting sick a few days after exposure to the bacteria.

While healthy adults can usually recover within a week or so, young children and older adults have a greater risk of developing a life-threatening form of kidney failure from E. coli poisioning.

According to Pritzker Hageman law firm, which is representing the family of the affected child, doctors at Mayo Clinic were at one point concerned that she was in kidney failure. The child spent several days in the hospital before being discharged, and "is still recovering," the lawsuit states.

County health officials first became aware of the outbreak after being notified by the Minnesota Department of Health on Oct. 10. The restaurant was closed for one day as environmental health specialists inspected the facility. They also collected receipts and contacted customers to see if they had been affected.

Damsy was forced to close again on Oct. 18 after multiple employees tested positive for E. coli. After additional measures were taken, the restaurant re-opened three days later. Etrheim said Friday no other cases have been detected since.

A preliminary investigation determined all eight people sickened had eaten falafel at Damsy. Health officials believe the food became contaminated because cooks were using the same grinder for both meats and beans. According to Etrheim, the restaurant has taken steps to address food safety, and now uses a second grinder. 

Confirmed E. coli outbreaks are rare in Olmsted County, Etrheim said, with only a handful being reported each year.

Damsy first opened in mid-September in the former China Star building. The menu features Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine, along with some mainstream American fare.

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