Likely salmonella cases tied to On the Border on rise

Cause of outbreak still unknown

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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The number of probable salmonella cases linked to Vancouver's On the Border restaurant is increasing, but health officials are still unsure of the source of the bacteria.

Clark County Public Health on Tuesday shut down the Mexican restaurant at 1505 S.E. 164th Ave. in response to a salmonella outbreak. To date, health officials have confirmed 11 cases of salmonella and suspect another 10 people also have the bacterial infection. Lab tests to confirm those probable cases are pending, said Don Strick, Clark County Public Health spokesman.

Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County health officer, said Tuesday the only thing the ill people have in common is they ate at On the Border between Sept. 20 and Oct. 8. All are adults; two have been hospitalized for dehydration, he said.

Health officials are still investigating the source of the illness. They're unsure whether the bacteria was spread by a contaminated surface or food product, or whether a food handler passed the illness to customers.

Health officials asked restaurant staff to throw away anything with the potential to grow bacteria, including

opened food and ice. Public health officials are also inspecting the restaurant and testing employees for salmonella.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 38 of the restaurant's 39 employees had picked up a testing kit. The employees will submit samples to the lab, which needs four days to determine results, Strick said.

The restaurant will not be allowed to reopen until the test results are in and staff members are cleared to work, he said.

Since news about the salmonella outbreak spread, county health officials have received calls from about a dozen other people who ate at the restaurant, Strick said.

Vancouver resident Mattie Futrell, 85, called the health department after she learned of the salmonella outbreak Wednesday. Futrell ate at the restaurant on Sept. 29. A few days later, she started experiencing intense stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea. She's still experiencing the symptoms, although they're less severe, she said.

Futrell visited a walk-in clinic Tuesday evening after she heard about the rash of illnesses linked to the restaurant. She's awaiting test results to determine whether she has salmonella.

Public health officials are in the process of conducting follow-up interviews with everyone who contacted the department, Strick said.


Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health; http://facebook.com/reporterharshman; marissa.harshman@columbian.com.