Health officials close Salmon Creek restaurant

Nearly two dozen people sickened after eating at Billygan's Roadhouse

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

Published:

Updated: February 22, 2013, 4:56 PM

 

Clark County health officials closed Billygan’s Roadhouse in Salmon Creek on Friday after 22 people became ill after eating at the restaurant last weekend.

Health officials suspect the diners had a viral gastroenteritis illness, which is common this time of year and highly contagious, according to health officials. The sickened people experienced nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Acting Health Officer Dr. Diana Yu, in consultation with the Washington Department of Health Food Safety Program, closed the restaurant Friday for at least 48 hours so all surfaces and equipment could be sanitized and potentially contaminated food discarded.

Clark County Public Health is also working with restaurant staff to ensure other standard controls, such as frequent hand-washing and proper food storage, are in place. Restaurant management and staff are following the recommendations, Yu said in a news release.

Clark County Public Health Deputy Director Marni Storey said the the virus could probably be attributed to a sick individual who entered the restaurant, but she said it was unlikely that the exact source would be pinned down.

“What can cause this in a restaurant setting is anyone who is ill, someone who went to a restaurant and say didn’t wash their hands in the bathroom,” Storey said. “Or it could be someone who is working at the restaurant and handles the food. But there is nothing in our practice that we could say ‘X’ caused this outbreak. It could have been a child who came in, it could have been a worker, it could have been anybody.”

People who reported illness recovered in about 27 hours, without needing medical care. Viral gastroenteritis illnesses can cause dehydration in infants, young children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems or other underlying health conditions, according to health officials.

Billygan’s Roadhouse, 13200 N.E. Highway 99, received a perfect score on its most recent health inspection in November, though the restaurant has been marked down numerous times for not keeping hot foods hot enough and cold foods cold enough, according to Clark County Public Health records.

Calls and emails to the restaurant went unanswered Friday afternoon, though its Facebook page announced the restaurant would be closed until Sunday.

Storey said it is rare to have an outbreak at a restaurant that causes a closure, noting it occurs in Clark County ”maybe once or twice a year.”

Clark County health officials last closed a local restaurant in October, when a salmonella outbreak sickened more than 100 diners and employees at the On the Border Mexican restaurant in east Vancouver.

The restaurant was cleaned and reopened, but the source of the original contamination was never found.

Staff writer Erik Hidle contributed to this story.

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