Health officials: 89 affected in Firefly eatery outbreak - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

Health officials: 89 affected in Firefly eatery outbreak

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Southern Nevada Health District disclosed photos of food at Firefly when it released the inspection report on May 1, 2013. (SNHD) Southern Nevada Health District disclosed photos of food at Firefly when it released the inspection report on May 1, 2013. (SNHD)
Cars are parked in front of the Paradise Road location of Firefly. (File/FOX5) Cars are parked in front of the Paradise Road location of Firefly. (File/FOX5)

As many as 86 patrons and 3 workers may have contracted salmonella from a popular Las Vegas restaurant that shut down following a health inspection, according to the Southern Nevada Health District.

Officials for the county's health authority spoke Thursday on details of the bacterial outbreak that forced the temporary closure of Firefly restaurant and its sister business Dragonfly restaurant on Paradise Road this week.

In a news conference, SNHD officials said at least a dozen people were hospitalized due to the salmonella outbreak. They believed those who ate food from the restaurant April 21-25 were affected. Three employees also were affected in the outbreak, officials said at the news conference.

Health officials said they were looking at 10 menu items to see if any of those was the cause of the outbreak.

SNHD said no firm date was announced for the restaurant's reopening, but officials said that could come some time next week.

In an interim report by SNHD, inspectors found improperly stored food in inadequate temperatures when it cited Firefly restaurant on 44 demerits. The eatery was also cited for employees handling food without gloves and preparing food next to cleaning chemicals.

Dragonfly, which is located next to Firefly, was also cited for 47 demerits connected to its sister restaurant's inspection.

The SNHD interim report also marked 30 demerits for the local restaurant chain's W. Sahara Avenue location and six for the S. Eastern Avenue location. The citations stemmed from an April 29 inspection, according to the report.

"People have gotten sick here, and we're trying to get to the bottom of it and figure out what happened," said Firefly owner John Simmons.

Simmons told FOX5's Matt DeLucia he was surprised when health inspectors came to the door at 7 p.m. Friday and shut the place down while customers were eating in the dining room.

Records show Firefly received an "A" grade during a routine inspection last year. Now, it has been cited with 44 demerits.

On Tuesday, Stephanie Bethel, spokeswoman for the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD), said tests confirmed the illnesses were caused by salmonella - a bacteria which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, causes those infected to develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection.

Although salmonella is commonly found in undercooked meat, it comes from other sources as well.

"It could come from an employee or person that currently has it that is working in the establishment, and handling ready-to-eat foods without practicing good hygienic practices," said the SNHD's Amy Irani.

FOX5 spoke by phone with customer Carla Bankhead, who ate at Firefly last Monday.

"This is the first time I ever got something like this [which lasted] as long as it has. It's been a week for me now," Bankhead said. "It was my first time ever trying the place. I thought it was pretty neat. It kind of makes me leery."

Bethel said the restaurant will remain closed until tests are complete and the source of the contamination can be determined. She was not immediately sure how long the tests would take.

According to the SNHD website, the same location was also closed by health inspectors in July 2011.

Later Tuesday, Simmons released this statement upon the salmonella finding:

"We understand that it is being reported that the cause of the food borne illness at Firefly was caused by salmonella. We have not received any official notification from the Health District on this, but we are pleased to see that the investigation is moving forward. We continue to work closely with officials as we, too, are anxious to find the cause and make this right."

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