Health officials probe outbreak at unnamed Florida restaurant

Hernando Today reports that Paul and Alice Andrews, 87, of High Point, enjoyed a dinner the night of March 6 at the same restaurant along U.S. 19, north of Tampa.

They didn’t regain their appetites for the rest of the week, they said.

They spent most of last week resting at home because the virus they suffered through sapped them of their strength.

"I’ve never ever encountered anything like this," said Alice Andrews. "It was just terrible."

Andrews and her husband were two out of numerous people who filed reports with the Hernando County Health Department, which quickly launched an environmental health investigation, according to a media release.

Ann-Gayl Ellis, an agency spokeswoman, said the investigation kicked off after several people reported "symptoms of gastrointestinal illness" as of Friday.

Ellis did not reveal the name of the restaurant that was probed, but Andrews and his wife confirmed Tuesday they had gotten sick — along with a half-dozen more of their friends — after dining at the same Spring Hill restaurant.

The name of the business is being withheld by Hernando Today because the case is still open.

Ellis said of the 45 or so filed reports with her agency, most of them had eaten at the same restaurant while the others lived with or came in contact with those who had dined there.

A woman who manages the restaurant said the health department had sent two people to inspect the business Monday. They stayed for five or more hours and found nothing wrong with the food or the temperatures used to cook the food, she said.

Nina Mattei, a health department spokeswoman, said five stool samples were collected and sent to a Tampa laboratory to determine what organism caused the illnesses. The tests should be completed within the next few days, she said.

Ellis said the symptoms the Andrews suffered from were consistent with the norovirus, which can be transferred by food, water and from person to person.

"They need to close that place down and sanitize that entire area," said Andrews of the restaurant.

She had eaten there "several times" prior to last Sunday, but doesn’t plan to return.